On July 30-31, 2018, the red planet Mars comes closer to Earth than it has since its historically close approach in 2003. That 2003 close approach of Mars was the closest in some 60,000 years, and Mars is now only slightly farther away from Earth now than it was then.
Although Mars reached opposition a few days ago, its minimum distance from Earth will occur on Thursday, July 31, when it will be 0.385 astronomical units (35.79 million miles or 57.6 million km) from Earth. It won’t be this close again until 2035. During the evenings around opposition and closest approach, even modest telescopes can expect to show Mars’ southern polar cap and large-scale surface patterns, unless dust storms hide the surface. Owners of larger telescopes should try for additional surface details and Mars’ two small moons Phobos and Deimos.
Mars comes closest to Earth about every two years. Earth takes a year to orbit the sun, and Mars takes about two years. So we go between the sun and Mars – bringing Mars closest to us for that two-year period – that often. Mars is especially close now because its perihelion or closest point to the sun is coming up on September 16, 2018. If it’s closer to the sun around the time we pass between it and the sun, it’s closer than usual to us. Astronomers call this a perihelic opposition of Mars, and the last one was in 2003.
Hubble Sees Summer Storms on Mars and Saturn
This summer, Hubble has been busy watching out-of-this-world weather — a blustery dust storm on Mars and churning clouds on Saturn.
For almost three decades Hubble has shown us the wonders of our own solar system — from Mars, Jupiter and Saturn to Uranus and Neptune. Hubble’s Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) program makes long-term observations of the outer planets to understand their atmospheric dynamics and evolution as gas giants.
Clips, images credit: Hubble Space Telescope, NASA/JPL, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Music credit: YouTube Audio Library
Lusciousness -Asher Fulero