The Red Planet has long been a source of fascination for the astronomically inclined among us. Even as NASA's Curiosity rover wanders across the desolate terrain, others have rushed to send their names to the neighbouring planet via the Mars Missions.
But while access to the planet may still be a distant dream, on October 13, you can see the planet at its biggest and brightest. This is reportedly the closest Mars will come to Earth for the 15 years. Opposition -- the most significant Martian date on stargazers' calendars -- is also when the planet is at its brightest and near its maximum apparent size in telescopes. Because of the shapes and orientations of the planets' orbits, however, Mars and Earth were actually closest on Tuesday, October 6, separated by just 62 million kilometres, said Sky and Telescope.
As per NASA, the Mars Close Approach takes place every 26 months. However, today's orbit will take it closer than previous years. At around 23:20 GMT (around 5 am on Wednesday as per IST), Mars, Earth and the Sun will be in a straight line.
However, Mars will be clearly visible in the night sky even before that. It will eventually become fainter as Mars and Earth travel farther away from each other in their orbits around the Sun.
Although Mars was somewhat closer to Earth in 2018 i.e., 58 million kilometres away, for observers in the Northern Hemisphere the 2020 opposition is much more favourable since the Red Planet is farther north and therefore higher in the sky, where it can be viewed with telescopes in much greater detail because the planet is observed along a shorter, more direct path through Earth's atmosphere.
(With inputs from agencies)