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Published: Mon, May 23, 2016
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Look Up: Mars Is The Brightest It's Been In A Decade


"At the moment, Mars is now the brightest object in the sky". By May 30, Mars will be a short 47 million miles away, almost 100 million miles closer than its average distance.

For perspective, the sun is 93 million miles from Earth.

If skies are clear, Mars will be visible for much of the night and can be easily seen without a telescope or binoculars.

It's true that Mercury has greater swings in brilliance than any of the other planets in the solar system and Jupiter is now the brightest starlike object in the evening sky, but Mars steals the show on Sunday when it and the Sun are on opposite sides of the Earth.

This once-every-26-months cosmic event will make Mars closer to Earth than it has been in a decade, ideal for sky-watchers to enjoy.

Mars now rises in the eastern sky as the sun sets in the west.

Earlier this week, to mark the occasion, NASA revealed new up-close images of Mars captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, and those photographs show the planet's polar caps and clouds floating above the rust-colored surface of the planet.

The event saw veteran amateur astronomer Sadiq Feteh Ali and other professional stargazers who enjoyed the viewing of the phenomenon at the Breakwater near Marina Mall.

"The biennial close approaches between Mars and Earth are not all the same", explained NASA. In August 2003, they were just 35 million miles (56 million km) apart, a quirk stemming from the planets' slightly oval-shaped orbits around the sun.

From May 18 to June 3, the planet will appear brighter than usual because of its placement.

"Mars is especially photogenic during opposition because it can be seen fully illuminated by the sun as viewed from Earth", according to NASA's website.

Those will miss this month's festivities will have to wait, but fortunately not a lifetime. That means next Mars Opposition is expected to take place in July 2018.

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