Mars To Come Closest To Earth In 11 Years

The Red Planet is approaching its closest point to Earth for 11 years later this month, offering a rare chance for astronomy fans.

On 30 May, Mars will be 47.2 million miles from our planet and will remain close and bright for the first two weeks of June.

The planet will be visible for much of the night if the skies are clear and should be able to be seen without a telescope or binoculars.

At its furthest, the distance between Earth and Mars can reach up to 250 million miles but the closest was in August 2003, when the two planets were just 35 million miles apart.

If you missed that chance to see it, you will be disappointed to know it will be another 300 years before the planets get that close again.

Mars also forms a triangle of celestial sights, which include the planet Saturn and the red star Antares, which will twinkle brightly as its usually faint light is distorted by temperature ripples in the atmosphere.

The name Antares is from ancient Greek meaning “anti Mars” or “Mars’ rival”.

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: “I observed (Mars) through quite a small five inch reflecting telescope at the beginning of the month and could see a surprising amount of detail.

This 1999 Hubble telescope image shows Mars when Mars was 54 million miles (87 million kilometers) from Earth“Mars is now quite large in the sky, about 18 seconds of arc across (0.3 degrees). It looks very red because it’s so low in the sky, scraping the rooftops really.

“If you want to see some detail you need a telescope with 75 – 100 times magnification. The best time to see it is around 1am.

“Saturn is next to Mars at the moment and you can see the difference between the two planets. Saturn looks yellowish.”

Alan MacRobert, from Sky & Telescope magazine, said amateur astronomers could find Antares by looking below Mars “by about the width of your fist at arm’s length”.

He added: “If Antares is still too low, wait a while and everything will rise higher. Antares is fainter but it also has a fiery colour.”CAR WASH ART-NEW

On Sunday 22 May, the sun and Mars were on the exact opposite sides of Earth, at a distance of 47.4 million miles.

Credit:Sky News