The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!
This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that
will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in
recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is
in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on
Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be
certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth
in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as
60,000 years before it happens again.
The encounter will culminate on August 27th when
Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and
will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in
the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9
and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest
Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.
Mars will be easy to spot. At the
beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.
By the end of August when the two planets are
closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its
highest point in the sky at 12:30a.m. That's pretty
convenient to see something that no human being has
seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at
the beginning of August to see Mars grow
progressively brighter and brighter throughout the
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/m ... 121-1.html