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Mars to come closest to Earth in 15 years

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-06-19 14:29
The planet Mars showing showing Terra Meridiani is seen in an undated NASA image. NASA will announce a major science finding from the agency's ongoing exploration of Mars during a news briefing September 28 in Washington. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - Mars will look bigger and brighter in the coming weeks than it has appeared in the last 15 years, according to NASA.

On July 31, Mars will travel to the closest point in its orbit to Earth, about 57.6 million km from our planet. This is the shortest Earth-Mars distance since 2003.

When Mars and Earth are close to each other, Mars appears very bright in our sky. It also makes it easier to see with telescope or the naked eye.

Mars only comes close enough to allow this kind of view once or twice every 15 or 17 years. The most recent one happened in 2003, when the distance was only 55.7 million km away, the closest in nearly 60,000 years.

Dean Regas, an astronomer at the Cincinatti Observatory, told Mother Nature Network that this year's event would be almost as good as that viewing.

"Mars will be visible to the naked eye," he said. "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."

However, Mars will look fainter by mid-August as the red planet and Earth will travel farther away from each other in their orbits around the Sun.

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