While you’re getting ready to celebrate Independence Day with red, white and blue, get ready to see a lot of red in the sky in July. Mars will be at its brightest since 2003, and some skywatchers will be treated to a lengthy lunar eclipse as well.
By Elizabeth Howell | SPACE.com
The Red Planet is just about to reach the part of its orbit called opposition, where it is exactly opposite the sun in Earth’s sky. This year, it will also herald Earth’s closest view of Mars in 15 years. Earth and Mars orbit the sun at different distances. Since Earth is closer to the sun, it orbits faster than Mars. Once every two years (or thereabouts), the sun, Earth and Mars create a straight line with respect to each other — the opposition. [Mars Opposition 2018: What It Is & When to See It]
Opposition this year will happen on July 27, with the closest approach of Mars on 3:50 a.m. EDT (0750 GMT) on July 31. Mars will be bright in the sky — its brightest since 2003, when it came to its closest distance to Earth in nearly 60,000 years. In 2003, Mars was about 34.7 million miles (56 million kilometers) from Earth, according to NASA. This time, Mars will be 35.8 million miles (57.6 million km) away and will be 10 times brighter than usual.