Stargazers, get ready to see red! July is a great month for viewing the red planet with the naked eye. Mars will be closer to Earth than it has been in 15 years!
Yes, this July, Mars will be brighter in our night sky than it has been since 2003. Why? According to space.com, Mars is entering into the phase of its orbit called opposition. That phase refers to Mars’ position exactly opposite the sun in the Earth’s sky. That happens every couple of years or so, as Earth orbits the sun faster than its red neighbor. During opposition, the Sun, Earth and Mars are in a straight line with each other.
Opposition will happen on July 27th this year. And, Mars will be closest to us (35.8 million miles away), and therefore its brightest in the sky, on July 31st around 3:50am EDT. But, it will be bright enough to see easily between July 21st and August 3rd. At its brightest, it’ll be 10 times brighter than usual, and appear as an extra bright, slightly red-tinted star. You can check EarthSky.org for an exact location. So, look skyward, friends. The universe awaits.