On July 31st, 2003: Mars passed closet to the Earth

Mars is moving into the night sky, just like 15 years before it came closer to the Earth. Its been seen at the predawn dawn earlier this year. According to the telescope magazine, the planet centers will be divided by 35,784,871 miles or 57,590,017 km on July 31st at 3:50 a.m. EDT (7:50 Universal Time).

Since August 2003, this is the closest Mars has come to us. That time the separation was 34,646,418 miles. On that day, the Red planet was closest to the Earth than it was since 57,617 B.C. Now Mars appears bold and prominent in the night sky. Its brightness is measured by magnitude used by astronomers that will be 2.8. This means Mars will look twice as bright as Jupiter. Jupiter is prominent now in the Southern, western night sky, and it will continue to outshine the Jupiter at the September first week.

Diana Hannikainen (pronounced "Huhn-ih-KY-nen"), Sky and Telescope's Observing Editor says that when you spot Mars rising in the east after sunset, you will be amazed by how bright it looks. It's pale orange color. That’s why its called Red Planet. Mars has a reddish-orange hue, and this is caused by the presence of rust-colored iron oxides on its surface. 

There are two events are taking place on the Red Planet this week:

Mars reaches "opposition on July 27: At 1:07 a.m. EDT (5:07 UT). This means the planet appears opposite the sun from the earth. Mars remains in the night sky and rises at the sunset and sets when the sun rises. Mars takes 1.88years to circle the sun. Previously the opposition of Mars was 2016, 30th March. The next opponent will be 2020, October 6th. This time the Red planet will be considered as far from now.

This year opposition is significant because it occurs close when March reaches the closest points to the sun. It is called perihelion. The red planet reaches perihelion on September 16th this year. Although Mars is close now, it will remain low for the Southern sky viewers. Mars will appear overhead when seen from Chile, Australia, and South Africa.

It can be seen through a telescope, and now the Red planet surface is hidden by a global dust storm, which started in May. Coming week the weather will be cloudy. Keep an eye on the bright planet, Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus.