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Mars and Earth cosy up with closest approach in a decade

It's an excellent time to take a look at the Red Planet as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 11 years.


An image snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope on May 12, 2016 as Mars moves closer to Earth.

NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Bell (ASU), and M. Wolff (Space Science Institute)

It's time to bust out the telescopes: Mars has moved in to say hi. Tonight, May 30 in the US, marks the Mars Close Approach, when its orbit brings it in to its closest approach to Earth. Planetary orbits don't stay the same distance away from each other. On average, Mars is about 225 million kilometres (140 million miles) from Earth. At its farthest, it's 401 million kilometres (250 million miles).

Tonight, it will be just 75.3 million kilometres (46.8 million miles) away, its biggest and brightest since 2003. If you want to check it out for yourself, it will be at its highest point just before midnight EDT, about 35 degrees about the southern horizon. If it's cloudy or you can't get outside, you can watch a livestream from Slooh Community Observatory from 9 p.m. EDT. And if you're not in the US, there's a Mars-watching guide here.

If you miss it, don't sweat. Mars will loom large in the sky until around mid-June. And there will be an even closer approach on July 31, 2018, which will bring Mars just 57.6 million kilometres (35.8 million miles) from Earth.