Mars will appear bright throughout the month, but there are two rare days to look outside: October 6, when Mars makes its close approach, and October 13, when the red planet is in opposition.
On Tuesday, October 6, Mars’s orbit comes closest to Earth. This year, a closer view of Mars is about 38.59 million miles from Earth, according to NASA.
The minimum distance of the two planets can be approximately 33.9 million miles from each other. In 2003, Mars made its closest approach to the Earth in nearly 60,000 years – and it would not stop again until 22.87.
Mars is relatively easy to spot in the night sky due to its bright orange-red color, even visible to the naked eye. It is visible for most of the night in the southern sky, reaching its highest point around midnight, and a closer approach means it is brighter forever.
This year, it comes closest to EDT at around 10 a.m. on October 6, according to EarthSky. However, eager skywatchers can spend an entire month watching an incredible view of the planet near the moon.
“Just go out and look and depending on your local weather and lighting conditions, you should be able to see Mars,” NASA said.
If you miss the near approach this year, the next one will be December 8, 2022. However, NASA said that it looks amazing again 15 years before Mars, due to the planets’ slightly bent elliptical orbits and gravity.
The space agency said, “The red planet comes close enough to be seen exceptionally only once or twice every 15 or 17 years.” The next time it is in 2035, Mars is closer to Earth.
Mars in opposition
The Earth makes two trips to Mars to make the same journey around the Sun in two equal times. This means that, sometimes, two planets are on opposite sides of the Sun – a phenomenon called opposition that occurs every two years.
This year’s close approach to Mars coincides with protests, an especially rare occurrence. From the point of view of humans on Earth, the red planet is rising in the east in the same way as the sun is setting in the west, the exact opposite is happening each morning.
When Mars is in opposition, the red planets and the Earth are closest to each other in their orbits. Mars is the brightest during this time, making it easy to spot with the naked eye in the night sky.
This year, it is reaching opposition at around 7pm EDT on 13 October, according to EarthSky.
With Mars being so close, many nations are currently sending spacecraft, including. The Perseverance Rover is scheduled to hit the Red Planet in February 2021.