Our chance to see Mars in the night sky

Mars will be shining bright tonight.

Sky watchers will have a rare chance to see Mars - the Red Planet - as it approaches its closest point to Earth for 11 years.

When Mars and Earth are close to each other, Mars appears very bright, making it easier to see with telescopes or the naked eye.

The planet is already clearly visible in the night sky following its opposition on May 22 - when the sun and Mars were on exact opposite sides of Earth - and can be seen low in the south-east, glowing red.

The planet won't be hard to find.

Alan MacRobert, from Sky & Telescope magazine, said: "Mars looks nearly scary now".

Mars will be just part of a broader celestial show tonight. And don't confuse the Red Planet with Antares, a supergiant star to its left that's bigger than the sun and, like Mars glows in a reddish hue. Try finding Mars first (it will be brightest) in the east at nightfall or early evening and then look for Saturn and Antares.

"If Antares is still too low, wait a while and everything will rise higher".

If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Saturn. Mars sits right above the star Antares.

It only comes close enough for exceptional viewing once or twice every 15 to 17 years.

The close approach, however, varies between 35 million and 63 million miles, according to NASA, since Mars is at an elliptical orbit around the sun.

Back in August 2003, they were closer still: The two planets were only 34,646,418 miles from center to center.

And, if you want an even greater view, the Slooh Community Observatory will offer a free live webcast of Mars with its remotely operated telescopes.

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