On December 18th, our planetary neighbor will be as close to us than at any time over the past two years. Almost a week later, on December 24th, the orbits of Earth and Mars will bring the two planets in alignment with the Sun during a phenomenon known as Mars Opposition. Because of its relatively close proximity to Earth, Mars will outshine the brightest star, Sirius, and from now until April, you can see the Red Planet all night long. These oppositions occur every 26 months, but each is different. Back in 2003, the two planets converged and were at its closest point in 60,000 years. While the 2007 Opposition isn't setting any records, this is an ideal time for astronomers on the ground to take a closer look at Mars. It won't be this bright and big again until 2016.
Publication: December 18, 2007