Tonight is the best chance to see Mars for 15 years

Rob Waugh
·Contributor
·3-min read
A busy sky with bright red Mars rising east of the Milky Way, while a pair of Iridium satellites flare briefly as they travel in unison up along the Milky Way from south to north.   About 20 minutes later a very bright meteor flared and produced a lasting train of smoke, seen at left and composited in from two later frames - but with it located where it appeared, above Mars. But to be clear - the meteor did not appear at the same time as the Iridiums. Nevertheless, this captures the fact that there were a lot of satellites and meteors this night, on a very clear though short summer night. It was a busy sky!
A busy sky with bright red Mars rising east of the Milky Way (Getty)

Mars will shine brightly in the sky tonight as the planet reaches its closest point to Earth for the next 15 years.

The Red Planet will make its closest approach on October 6, when it will be 38,586,816 miles away from Earth (very close, for Mars).

Mars won’t be this close to Earth again until 2035, NASA says.

NASA takes advantage of close approaches of Mars to launch new missions to the planet, with its new Perseverance rover launching this summer.

To see Mars, you should look to the right side of the Moon, and upwards towards the Pisces constellation, according to Metro.co.uk.

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NASA says, “Mars will be visible for much of the night in the southern sky and is at its highest point at about midnight.

“This time of excellent Mars viewing coincides with opposition, when Mars is directly on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun.

“During this opposition, Mars and Earth are closest to each other in their orbits. That means Mars is at its brightest, so go out and take a look!”

In 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, coming within 34.65 million miles of us.

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Next week, Earth will swing between Mars and the Sun meaning it will shine brightly in the sky again on October 13.

Spacecraft from several nations are currently on the way to Mars, including NASA's Mars 2020 mission, which is scheduled to land there in February.

NASA's next-generation robotic rover - a car-sized six-wheeled vehicle carrying seven scientific instruments - also is scheduled to deploy a mini helicopter on Mars and try out equipment for future human treks to the fourth planet from the sun.

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Its arrival at Mars is planned for February 18 at the site of an ancient river delta.

The mission marks NASA’s ninth journey to the Martian surface.

Perseverance is due to land at the base of an 820-foot-deep crater called Jezero, site of a former lake and water system from 3.5 billion years ago that scientists suspect could bear evidence of potential past microbial life.

Scientists have long debated whether Mars - once a much more hospitable place than it is today - ever harbored life.

Water is considered a key ingredient for life, and Mars billions of years ago had lots of it on the surface before the planet became a harsh and desolate outpost.