Mars to be very close to Earth on July 27

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Mars Close Approach takes place about every 26 months, but since Earth and Mars don't have perfectly circular orbits, the shortest distance between the planets isn't always the same for each close approach.

The minimum distance between the planets is about 33.9 million miles, according to NASA. And on Friday, Mars will be in opposition. Astronomers say the planet will continue to cast its bright glow into the beginning weeks of August but will fade by mid-August.

"The reason Mars is becoming so bright is the fact that we are approaching Mars' opposition; this is the time when Earth will be directly between the planet and the sun", said AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel.

"In this case it's going to appear about five times brighter than usual", added Kelly. The next close approach, in 2020, will be 38.6 million miles (62 million km), according to NASA.

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On July 27, Mars will be in perihelic opposition, reported on Sunday.

For the best views of Mars, you'll want to wait until after midnight - or closer to 1 a.m. - when the planet is at its maximum height in the sky.

The Red Planet will be just 35.8 million miles away from humanity's homeworld next Tuesday. NASA notes that much has been made of the observation that the Neanderthals were the last before the 2003 approach to see Mars so favorably placed.

According to AccuWeather, Mars is now engulfed in a massive dust storm, obscuring the planetary features.

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"It's magnificent. It's as bright as an airplane landing light", said Widener University astronomer Harry Augensen.

'Not quite as bright as Venus, but still because of the reddish, orange-ish-red colour, you really can't miss it in the sky'. According to, it will be appear almost as bright as it did in 2003, when it was closer to Earth than it had been in 60,000 years. It won't come that close again until the year 2287!

This summer, opposition occurs July 27, or overnight Thursday into early Friday morning. For some, that means a chance to see a total lunar eclipse - the longest of the 21st century, but the eclipse won't be visible from the United States.

Looking further, it's likely that many planets orbiting other stars have the same favorable conditions, and would be likely to have proton auroras too.

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