Mars making closest approach to Earth in 15 years

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The next Mars close approach is on 6 October 2020 when the planet will be 38.6 million miles away.

The two planets will be just 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers) apart next Tuesday. On that date, Mars will be in opposition, meaning the orbit of Earth and Mars will form a straight line with the sun.

Mars is already brighter than usual and will shine even more- and appear bigger - as Tuesday nears.

Every 15 or 17 years, opposition occurs within a few weeks of Mars' perihelion - the point in its orbit when it is closest to the Sun.

If you've looked outside anytime after sunset recently, you've probably thought Mars looks a bit bigger than you remember it.

Mars will be at its brightest appearance since 2003 when Mars made its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years.

By mid-August, the planet will become fainter as Mars and Earth travel farther away from each other in their orbits around the sun.

Here's what you need to know about the red planet's approach next week.

A massive dust storm presently engulfing Mars, however, is obscuring surface details normally visible through telescopes.

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If Mars seems unusually large and bright in the night sky this weekend, it's not your imagination.

Mars will be easily visible with the naked eye - weather permitting. Only Venus will appear brighter.

"It will appear to be a very bright orange star and you'll be able to watch it creep across the sky", said Kelly.

On Friday, Mars will be in opposition, which means the sun and the Red Planet will be on the opposite side of Earth.

Nasa has said that there is now a dust storm which is affecting the whole planet, so this may make seeing details on Mars a little more hard for astronomers.

A massive dust storm that has engulfed the planet will make viewing surface details more hard than it typically would be for those using a telescope, but the dust also reflects the sun's light better, making the planet appear all that much brighter.

It's also a great time for people see the planet from here on Earth, and many Orlando-area planetariums are making it easy for stargazers to get a good look this year. Viewers in the USA will not be able to see the lunar eclipse.

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

The total lunar eclipse on Friday will be visible in Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

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