On July 27, the red planet will be brighter in the night sky than it’s been since 2003. Here’s where to go to get the best views.
This Friday, July 27, 2018, Mars will be brighter in the night sky than it has been in 15 years due to an astronomical event called opposition, which occurs when Earth passes directly between the sun and the red planet, or when Mars is directly opposite the sun in our sky.
In 2003, Mars came within 34.6 million miles of Earth, the closest the planets have been in 60,000 years. While this week’s event won’t break that record—that won’t happen until August 28, 2287, NASA says—it will be just 35.8 million miles away, making it brighter than Jupiter, which usually outshines the fourth planet from the sun.
It’s no coincidence that my launch and Mars Close Approach are both in the same year. Every 26 months #Mars & #Earth come closest to each other in their orbits. This is one of the reasons why I launched just before Mars Close Approach. More: https://t.co/nQhFY8cWTH pic.twitter.com/02Joqsn7df— NASAInSight (@NASAInSight) July 20, 2018
Here’s how to see the astronomical event later this week.
What night can you see Mars the best?
Technically, Mars will be closest to Earth at 3:50 a.m. EST on July 31, according to Space.com, and will appear brighter in the sky between July 21 and August 3. But the best viewing opportunities will occur the night of July 27, when you can not only see Mars at its brightest but also take in July’s full moon, which happens to be the longest lunar eclipse of the century.
Where can you see Mars?
While the lunar eclipse isn’t visible from North America, people around the world can observe Mars at opposition in places where the weather is clear and there isn’t too much light pollution. Here are a few of our favorite picks for where to go.
If you can’t make it all the way to Spain, the Desert Retreat in Pioneertown, California—one of Airbnb’s most popular stargazing spots—still has availability. Those who want to get even farther away can book the HipCamp’s Pond Cabin in California’s Shasta Trinity National Forest. Unfortunately, those on the East Coast will have their views of Mars blocked by a wet weather pattern that is expected to last through the end of the week.
When is Mars at opposition next?
If you miss this weekend’s event, the next close approach of Mars will happen on October 6, 2020, when the red planet will be 38.6 million miles away from Earth.