Mars to be very close to Earth on July 27

The next close approach, meanwhile, in 2020, will be 38.6 million miles (62 million kilometers), according to NASA. On July 31, the planets will be 35.8 million miles apart.

Well, since it means a shorter distance between Mars and Earth, you tend to see more missions to Mars take place in years that a close approach happens in because it means a shorter trip from Earth to the red planet.

"Even with bright moonlight, you can't miss Mars", Samuhel said.

Every 15 or 17 years, opposition occurs within a few weeks of Mars' perihelion - the point in its orbit when it is closest to the Sun.

The message is that Mars will look as big as the moon in our night sky, which isn't the case. According to EarthSky.org, 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. This year, Earth is near its farthest distance from the sun, and Mars is close to its minimum distance to the sun - that puts Earth and Mars very close to each other. These two planets do come nearly this close after every 15 to 17 years.

When a close approach happens, a rumour often flies around that Mars will look as big as the Moon in the night sky, but this isn't true!

Derek Demeter, the astronomy director at Seminole State College's planetarium, said the sight will be particularly spectacular through telescopes Friday because Mars will also be close to the moon around the time of the event. The sun, moon and Venus are usually the top three brightest objects. Astronomers say we should be able to see it throughout early August.

In the days before the close approach, Mars will be its brightest between July 27 and 30 - when the planet is in opposition with the sun.

Nasa has said that there is now a dust storm which is affecting the whole planet, so this may make seeing details on Mars a little more hard for astronomers. Areas from the Plains to the West would have the best view of Mars as it passes Earth. North America is the only continent on Earth from which the eclipse will not be visible. It also coincides with the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century, which will last 1 hour, 43 minutes.

  • Joe Gonzales