Mars makes closest approach to Earth in 15 years

Matt Damon in The Martian
Aidan Monaghan

Matt Damon in The Martian Credit Aidan Monaghan

Mars gets closest to Earth; date and time, how to watch, what to expect: Mars will be at its closest distance to the Earth during an Opposition phase, a phenomenon that occurs about once in every 15 years.

Mars will be closest to the Earth in a decade and a half today, on the night of July 31, 2018.

At 3:50 a.m. EDT (0750 GMT), Mars reached the closest point to Earth in its orbit.

The next "close approach" event between the third and fourth planet from the Sun will be in 2020 when the two planets will come within 38.6 million miles (62 million kilometres) of each other. According to estimates of NASA, similar phenomena will not take place again till the year 2287.

The MailOnline reported that Mars is already brighter than usual and will shine even more- and appear bigger - as Tuesday nears. In the video, you can see telescopic imagery of the Red Planet, conversations between scientists as they observe the night sky, and guest appearances by a number of people, including "Star Trek: Voyager" actor Tim Russ, and former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

On July 31, Mars will be 35.8 million miles from Earth, the closest distance it has been to Earth in 15 years. However, a massive dust storm engulfing the Red planet is obscuring the surface details which are normally visible through telescopes.

Observatories across the U.S. are hosting Mars-viewing events right now.

If you missed it, don't believe any insane stories you may hear about its apparent size.

Now's the time to catch Mars in the night sky.

Observatories across the US are hosting Mars-viewing events this week.

Mars will start to dim by around mid-August and return to its normal magnitude of brightness around the start of September.

Mars is the most Earth-like planet in our Solar System.

After sunset, the planet will appear especially bright and should be relatively easy to spot (providing the clouds stay away) thanks to its orange-red hue.

A very thin atmosphere still exists around the planet, but it's less than one percent as dense as ours on Earth.

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