Mars is Making its Closest Approach to Earth in 15 Years

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The Red Planet hasn't been this close to us - a mere 54.6 million kilometres away - since 2003, and its orbit won't bring it this close again for another 15 years or so. One of the possible ways to make Mars similar to Earth is to release the carbon dioxide deposits in order to create an atmosphere and warm the planet. The red planet will be at a distance of 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers) from Earth.

The local stargazers are invited for a camp to witness the Red Planet from 7 pm to 10 pm tonight at the Colombo Campus grounds.

However, planet Mars' approach of the Earth this year is farther than it was on 2003.

Mars was in opposition on July 27, while Saturn was in opposition a month earlier on June 27, so Earth has been getting spoiled with unbelievable glimpses of its neighboring planets in the past few months. Mars's next close approach is October 6, 2020.

The minimum distance from the Earth to Mars is about 33.9 million miles (54.6 million kilometers), and is rarely achieved.

Transforming planets as a pre-cursor to colonisation is a staple of science fiction, and an aspiration for individuals including Elon Musk, whose company SpaceX uses images of terraforming Mars in its promotional material. Hubble was used to observe the planet on June 6, 2018, when Saturn was only approximately 1.36 billion miles from Earth, almost as close to us as it ever gets. This is what is happening on the early morning hours of July 31st. At this point, the ringed planet was 1.4 billion kilometers (870 million miles) away from Earth and its spectacular rings are almost at maximum tilt toward the planet, offering a breathtaking angle of Saturn to photograph. Both were captured when Mars was near opposition, which occurs about every two years, when Earth's orbit catches up to Mars' orbit. It will be shining brighter than Jupiter, which in general, shines as the brightest in the sky only after Venus.

The Red Planet is not going to be green anytime soon. Add a telescope and you can see a detailed view of the planet's surface and its polar caps.

As for novice astronomers who might be a little bummed they missed the 3:50 a.m. wake up call, NASA streamed Mars' close encounter with Earth live from the Griffith Observatory.

Good luck and happy viewing!

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