Watch Live Now: Mars Makes Close Approach To Earth

3 Mar

Mars opposition occurs approximately once every two years and two months when, during a close approach of Mars, Earth passes between the sun and Mars. This makes Mars visible opposite the sun in the Earth’s sky, which is a great time to view the Red Planet because the sun’s rays illuminate the full face of Mars. Because the two planets’ orbits regularly bring them close together, it also provides a good time to launch Mars missions such as the recent Mars Science Laboratory.

Mars and Earth will actually be at their closest point during this approach on March 5, and any time in the next few weeks will present a good opportunity for those with a modest-sized backyard telescope to see Mars.


With the planets separated by 62 million miles, this will actually be one of the least close of the regular close-ups that Mars and Earth have experienced in recent times. The closest approach in almost 60,000 years occurred in 2003, when the planets were just 35 million miles apart. Earth and Mars won’t break that record for 275 more years, in 2287.

The night sky’s cosmic show will keep going for the rest of the month, with a half dozen bright objects to keep watch for. On March 13, Jupiter and Venus — the second and third brightest objects in the night sky — will will get even closer to one another. As well, Mercury should be visible shortly after sunset near the horizon while Saturn can be spotted in the east just after midnight Pacific time.


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