Mars Will Come Closer To Earth Today Than It Has In 15 Years


Mars will be the closest it has been to Earth for 15 years tonight, July 31, and it will be noticeably larger in the sky.

There will be an Earth sandwich as the planets will align with Mars on one side, the Earth in the middle and the Sun on the other side in a straight line.

The phenomenon is known as ‘perihelic opposition’.

Despite still being 57.6 million kilometres (35.8 million miles) apart, the Red Planet’s visibility is only this good every 15-17 years.

Those watching the lunar eclipse on July 27 may have noticed Mars in the sky then, too. However, tonight is the night to see it at its best. Though it will still be visible util September, the planet will appear smaller with each passing day as its orbits shifts away from Earth.

Mars will appear almost three times larger than usual in the night sky tonight. If it’s not cloudy like it was in much of the UK for last week’s Blood Moon.

The last time this happened, back in 2003, Mars was even closer to Earth just 56 million km apart, which was the closest the two planets had been for 60,000 years and will not happen again until 2287 according to NASA.

The spectacle will be visible all over the world, but those in the southern hemisphere will get the best view of Mars. It will also be visible in the northern hemisphere where it will appear to rise in the east just as the sun sets in the west, making the sunlit side of the planet visible throughout the night, the MailOnline reports.

The Red Planet should be visible in the southeast of our skies tonight, and will be located just below the Sagittarius constellation, with Saturn also nearby.

It seems Mars just can’t stay out of the news lately, as earlier this month scientists made a giant breakthrough and discovered a huge lake beneath the surface of the planet.

The vast body of water was found underneath Mars’ southern pole, and is 20km wide, according to the Independent.

The exciting discovery was found by scientists using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument on the Mars Express spacecraft. The instrument sends out radar pulses that penetrate the planet’s surface.

While you've spent the past 2000 days on planet Earth, our Curiosity rover has been exploring another world entirely. The rover just hit a new milestone: its two-thousandth sol on Mars. A sol is slightly longer than an Earth day at 24 hours and 40 minutes. This mosaic taken by the rover looks uphill at Mount Sharp, which Curiosity has been climbing since 2014. Highlighted in white is an area with clay-bearing rocks that scientists are eager to explore; it could shed additional light on the role of water in creating Mount Sharp. The mosaic was assembled from dozens of images taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam). It was taken on Sol 1931 back in January. The formation of clay minerals requires water. Scientists have already determined that the lower layers of Mount Sharp formed within lakes that once spanned Gale Crater's floor. The area ahead could offer additional insight into the presence of water, how long it may have persisted, and whether the ancient environment may have been suitable for life. Curiosity landed on the Red Planet in August 2012 and has traveled 11.6 miles (18.7 kilometers) in that time. In 2013, the mission found evidence of an ancient freshwater-lake environment that offered all the basic chemical ingredients for microbial life. Having studied more than 600 vertical feet of rock with signs of lakes and groundwater, Curiosity's international science team concluded that habitable conditions lasted for at least millions of years. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS #nasa #space #mars #redplanet #curiosity #rover #spacecraft #mountsharp #planet #solarsystem #life #search #science #rocks #explore #2000 #sol #day

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The data recorded suggests a lake similar to those found beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets on Earth.

And, what’s more exciting, scientists have suggested that microbial life can live in those extreme conditions – which means life might be living in the water found on Mars.

The temperature on Mars is even colder than it is in the Antarctic or Greenland, however, making the discovery of liquid water – rather than frozen – even more surprising.

Alan Duffy, an astronomer from Swinburne University and lead scientist of Australia’s Science Channel, said:

This is a stunning result that suggests water on Mars is not a temporary trickle like previous discoveries but a persistent body of water that provides the conditions for life for extended periods of time.

Unfortunately, the liquid is believed to be full of salt, making it more of a ‘briny sludge’ than a cool blue lake.

Still, exciting times for those counting down the days before we can take off and inhabit another planet!

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