Canadian night skies are going to shine a little bit brighter this month, as Mars is going to be at its brightest since 2003.
According to NASA, the Red Planet is almost ready to reach the part of its orbit called ‘opposition’, where it’s exactly opposite the Sun in the Earth’s sky.
For space enthusiasts and skywatchers, there are two important times to look for Mars this month.
The Red Planet will appear very bright from July 27 to 30, when the planet is in opposition, and Mars, Earth and the Sun will all line up, with Earth directly in the middle.
But the big show will take place a few days after on July 31 during Mars Close Approach, which is when the planet and Earth are nearest to each other in their orbit around the Sun.
This is when the Red Planet will shine its brightest since 2003.
Don’t let the term close fool you.
According to NASA, in 2003, the Red Planet made its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years when it was roughly 55.8 million kilometres from Earth. It won’t come that close again until 2287.
On July 31, it will be about 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometres) away.
When Earth and Mars are this close to each other, the planet appears very bright in the sky, making it much easier to locate with a telescope or the naked eye.
On the 27, the Red Planet will begin to rise around 9:30 pm in the southeast and should appear roughly five times brighter.
On the 31, Mars will reach its highest point around midnight, and will be visible roughly 35 degrees above the southern horizon, or one-third of the distance between the horizon and overhead.
The moon will also be near Mars on the 31, and some parts of the world will be able to see a lunar eclipse.
But don’t worry if you miss Mars Close Approach this year. The next Mars Close Approach will take place on Oct. 6, 2020.