Orbital Oddities: Why Mars will be So Close to Earth in August

Anyone who had a Spirograph drawing toy as a kid has a head start in grasping why Earth and Mars will be closer to each other this August than ever in recorded history. The drawing wheels with the little toothy gears were very simple, yet they produced amazingly complex patterns that seemed to change, ever so slightly, for as long as you kept them moving. The relationship in space between Earth and Mars is never exactly repeated either. Each planet orbits the Sun on its own elliptical path, and those paths actually rotate through space over thousands of years.