LOS ANGELES – Earth's next planet, Mars, is closer than it has been for the past 15 years, offering unusually bright views of the reddish-brown shades of the red planet.
"The red planet and the Earth have not been so close since 2003, and will not be back until 2035," NASA said.
LEE: Is there life on Mars? & # 39; Underground lake & # 39; found on the red planet
Astronomers around the world trained their telescopes in the sky on July 31, when the Red Planet was 57.6 million kilometers away.
A popular public observatory was the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, where Mars was visible to the naked eye as a bright orange spot in the sky, according to a live broadcast made to mark the celestial event.
"Mars is invading us tonight," said observatory director Ed Krupp. 19659002] Astronomers are interested in the travel route of Mars because it helps to decide the best moments for the launch of the spacecraft.
When the Sun, the Eart and Mars are aligned, with the Earth in between, a phenomenon called "opposition" is in effect, giving the brightest view of Mars.
LOOK: The longest total lunar eclipse of the visible century in SA
But also, "at the time of opposition, a planet is at its closest distance to Earth for a year determined, "the US space UU Explanation of Gency.
Since Earth and Mars align in opposition every two years, "this is the reason why most of NASA's missions to the Red Planet are separated at least two years, to take advantage of the closest distance" .
The closest approach this year is not a record.
The minimum distance from Earth to Mars is approximately 54.6 million kilometers and is rarely achieved.
The last approach was in 2003 when Mars was 55.7 million kilometers from Earth "and the closest it had been in almost 60,000 years," NASA said.
Another close encounter like the one in 2003 will not happen until the year 2287.
For those who missed the closest approach, do not worry. Mars will remain visible in the night sky for the next few months.