How to see Mars opposition and blood moon eclipse with no telescope

Pablo Tucker
July 27, 2018

The Red Planet will appear brighter and larger as it draws close to Earth on Tuesday. Astronomers say we should be able to see it throughout early August.

If you miss this weekend's event, the next close approach of Mars will happen on October 6, 2020, when the red planet will be 38.6 million miles away from Earth.

Due to the different orbits that Earth and Mars take around the sun, they will not reach their closest point to each other until July 31.

Of course, you will get the best look at the close approach through a telescope, but if you don't have one and you want to see the planet closer up, then it could be worth contacting your local planetarium or astronomy centre to see if they're holding any special events for it.

Mars at opposition will take place on Thursday night into early Friday morning - the first time that Mars has been at opposition since May 2016. Our rocky neighbor Mars has auroras too, and NASA's MAVEN spacecraft just found a new type of Martian aurora that occurs over much of the day side of the Red Planet, where auroras are very hard to see. Mars will be at a distance of 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers).

As Mars draws near, it will grow brighter and appear larger. "As they approach Mars, the protons coming in with the solar wind transform into neutral atoms by stealing electrons from the outer edge of the huge cloud of hydrogen surrounding the planet", said Dr. Justin Deighan, from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

It's an exciting few days for space watchers as Mars will be coming the closest it's been to Earth for 15 years.

In 2003, Mars and Earth were the closest in almost 60,000 years - 34.6 million miles.

Mars is shining at its brightest in years - look for the bright red "star" in the night sky - and will soon make its closest approach to Earth since 2003. Observatories across the USA are hosting Mars-viewing events next week.

A massive dust storm is presently engulfing Mars, obscuring surface details normally visible through telescopes.

This won't happen again until 2287, Nasa has predicted. The best viewing of the planet will coincide with the lunar eclipse on Friday, July 27. For some, that means a chance to see a total lunar eclipse - the longest of the 21st century, but the eclipse won't be visible from the United States.

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