On Jan. 27, Mars will be closer to Earth than any other time between 2008 and 2014. A mere 60 million miles away, the red planet will be a great target for backyard telescopes, and will appear bright to the naked eye as well.
Every 26 months, the two planets’ orbits bring them closer together, sometimes closer than others. In 2003, Mars came within 35 million miles of Earth, a 60,000-year record.
Observers with a telescope will be able to see changes over the north pole of Mars as the carbon dioxide ice cap is nearing summer and evaporating into gas that affects the polar clouds. (If any of our reader-astronomers catch a nice image, send it our way!)
From the ground, Mars will look like an orange star almost as bright as Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. The view will actually be best on Friday, Jan. 29, when Mars will rise alongside the first full moon of the year, directly opposite the sun.
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