• October 27, 2005

    Episode 7: Mars Returns as a Bright Planet

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    Check out the night sky soon for a great view of Mars. The "Red Planet" is putting in its brightest appearance until the summer of 2018. You don't need a telescope - just look for a dazzling, star-like object that doesn't twinkle. Mars and Earth have been slowly approaching each other over the past months as they orbit the Sun, and Mars has been getting brighter as it gets closer. The two planetary neighbors will be 43,137,071 miles (69,422,386 km) apart at their closest on Oct. 29. That's still 180 times farther than the Moon, but less than half the distance to the Sun. Mars' orbit will bring it closer to Earth than any other planet except Venus. Another important date is Nov. 7, when Mars arrives at "opposition" to the Sun. As viewed from Earth, the Sun and Mars will be opposite each other in the sky. Mars will rise at sunset and set at sunrise, and therefore remain in the sky all night long. Happy Mars hunting!