The planet Mars will be at its closest distance to Earth in 15 years tonight on the night of July 31, 2018. The event is known as “Mars Close Approach,” which represents the point in the red planet’s orbit at which it comes closest to Earth. The Mars will be at 57.6 million kilometers from Earth, the closest it has been since 2003 when it came within 55.7 million kilometers, which was the nearest in almost 60,000 years.
Mars will be hitting its highest point in the sky at midnight to an approximately 35 degrees over the southern horizon, according to NASA.
Like all other planets, Earth and Mars have elliptical orbits, meaning oval in shape. The perihelic opposition happens when Mars is at the nearest point to the Sun in its orbit, which had happened on July 27 in 2018- the night of the lunar eclipse. At that time, the gap between the two planets was greater than it will be tomorrow. But it must be noted that Mars is closest to the Earth, but it does not mean it will be at its brightest too. In fact, the planet’s best visibility is estimated to be from July 27 to July 30, meaning, you still have tonight to experience a sight you won’t get for at least another 15 years.
While the best location to observe the phenomenon is in the southern hemisphere. The red planet will be visible from most of the parts in India, although not as clearly as it would be from South Africa, Australia or South American countries. A high-powered telescope with a large lens is recommended, but even then clouds may obstruct the view.
As we may never see the red planet so closely for another 269 years. So for all the space lovers out there, can still witness the phenomenon of the planet in all its glory as Nasa’s Griffith Observatory is hosting a live stream on YouTube.