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Mars is about to light up the sky during its closest encounter with Earth in 15 years

Stargazers are in for a treat this month as Mars appears bigger and brighter in the sky than usual.

The Red Planet is set for its closest encounter with Earth since 2003 next month when it reaches ‘opposition’ with the Sun.

This stunning celestial wonder also coincides with a ‘Blood Moon’ lunar eclipse which will be the longest of the 21st century.

Mars will appear as if it’s the brightest star in the sky throughout July (Picture: Nasa)

The Red Planet will appear large and bright in the sky in the days around July 27, meaning it will be visible to the naked eye. In the UK it will be easiest to see Mars just before dawn.

Here’s what Nasa said about Mars going into opposition: ‘Like all the planets in our solar system, Earth and Mars orbit the sun. But Earth is closer to the sun, and therefore races along its orbit more quickly. Earth makes two trips around the sun in about the same amount of time that Mars takes to make one trip.

‘So sometimes the two planets are on opposite sides of the sun, very far apart, and other times, Earth catches up with its neighbour and passes relatively close to it.’

Mars, as seen by Mars Global Surveyor in 2003 (Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Last time around, a hoax claimed Mars would appear to be as big as the moon.

This clearly wasn’t true, because Mars is only half the size of Earth and is about 34 million miles away.

Nonetheless, stargazers are certainly treated to a spectacular sight when the Red Planet is in opposition.

Nasa added: ‘During opposition, Mars and the sun are on directly opposite sides of Earth. From our perspective on our spinning world, Mars rises in the east just as the sun sets in the west.

‘Then, after staying up in the sky the entire night, Mars sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east. Since Mars and the sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that Mars is in “opposition.” If Earth and Mars followed perfectly circular orbits, opposition would be as close as the two planets could get.’

If you’re worried that 15 years is a long time, meaning the celestial wonder is a bad omen, you might take some reassurance to hear the opposition back in the noughties was Mars’ nearest approach in 60,000 years.


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