Stargazers are in for a treat in July as Mars makes its closest swing by Earth, making it appear brighter than it has since 2003.
Over the course of the next several weeks, the distance between the Earth and the Red Planet will shrink as Earth passes between Mars and the sun. During the orbital fly-by, Mars will be its brightest on the morning of July 31.
In 2003, Mars came within 34.9 million miles of Earth, closer than it had ever approached in 60,000 years. This summer’s show won’t be quite as impressive as 2003, considering our neighbor planet will only be 35.8 million miles away at its closest. Still, backyard astronomers using telescopes should have a spectacular view of the Red Planet’s unique features.
“This Martian pass in July will be almost as good as the ultra-close opposition on 2003,” Dean Regas, an astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory, told Mother Nature Network. “Mars will easily be visible to the naked eye. In fact, you will be hard pressed to miss it. It will look like a glowing orange beacon of light rising in the southeast after sunset. It’ll be much brighter than any star, brighter than Jupiter, nearly as bright as Venus. And you’ll see it every night for the next several months.”
The next time Mars comes as close as it will this summer won’t occur again until Sept. 15, 2035.