Mars making closest approach to Earth in 15 years

Matt Damon in The Martian
Credit
Aidan Monaghan

The Red Planet hasn't been this close to us - a mere 54.6 million kilometres away - since 2003, and its orbit won't bring it this close again for another 15 years or so. After rising, it stays up in the sky the entire night and starts setting in the west at a time when the sun rises in the east. Hubble was used to observe the planet on June 6, 2018, when Saturn was only approximately 1.36 billion miles from Earth, almost as close to us as it ever gets.

For about two months between July 7 and September 7, Mars will glow even brighter, outshining Jupiter and earning the title of the fourth-brightest object in Earth's sky after Venus, the moon, and the sun. On Mars, the pressure of the atmosphere is less than one percent of the pressure of Earth's atmosphere. On July 31st, Mars will be 35.8 million miles from Earth, which is the closest it has been to Earth in 15 years.

Since the Earth and Mars align in opposition about every two years, "this is why most NASA missions to the Red Planet are at least two years apart - to take advantage of the closer distance". This is probably the reason is not only the summer storms in the Northern hemisphere, but also the formation of bright clouds near the North polar region as the consequences of the fading hurricanes.

This is called terraforming - altering a planet to make it more like Earth.

Musk believes he has solved the carbon dioxide problem and that humans can still colonize Mars. Its closest and most distant points from the Sun vary by 19 percent (as opposed to 3 percent for Earth).

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Last seen this closer was on 2003 and next closest is 2020 and super closest is on 2035.

Astronomers are interested in Mars' travel path because it helps decide the best times for spacecraft to launch.

Telescopes staffed by employees and local volunteers will provide visitors viewing opportunities of the Red Planet.

Saturn's portrait is the first image of the planet taken as part of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project.

One of the proposed methods of pumping more Carbon dioxide into the red planet's atmosphere is by bombing the planet's poles. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.

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