Not often do we Earthbound observers get a good look at Mars. It’s a small planet to begin with, and it spends most of its time far away. Usually it’s just a tiny, fuzzy orange blob in the eyepiece. The only time we get a good look at its surface markings, clouds, dust storms, and changing polar caps is during the months around its oppositions, which come a little more than two years apart. And not all Mars oppositions are created equal. The best ones come in bunches of two or three that repeat in a cycle 16 years long.