Mars will burn bright in the sky tonight as it reaches opposition
Mars will shine in the sky on Tuesday night as the planet lines up with Earth, looking big and bright as it reaches “opposition”.
Every 26 months, the two planets move close together, until Earth lines up with Mars on the same side of the sun.
Tuesday night sees the moment of opposition, with the planets lining up at just after 11pm.
At that point, Mars should be visible to the south east from the UK, astrophotographer Damian Peach told the BBC.
Peach said, “Even at nine or 10 o’clock in the evening, you’ll easily see it over in the southeast. You can’t miss it, it’s the brightest star-like object in that part of the sky.”
The Red Planet actually made its closest approach to our planet on 6 October, when it was 38,586,816 miles away from Earth (very close, for Mars).
Read more: Astronomers find better planets for life than Earth
But at opposition, it looks bigger and brighter, NASA explained.
“During opposition, Mars and the sun are on directly opposite sides of Earth. From our perspective on our spinning world, Mars rises in the east just as the sun sets in the west,” NASA said.
“Then, after staying up in the sky the entire night, Mars sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east. Since Mars and the sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that Mars is in ‘opposition’.”
NASA takes advantage of close approaches of Mars to launch new missions to the planet, with its new Perseverance rover launching this summer.
In 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, coming within 34.65 million miles of us.
Read more: What are fast radio bursts,