Mars to be very close to Earth on July 27

Astronomers predict that the Mars will come close to the Earth in 5 years

Astronomers predict that the Mars will come close to the Earth in 5 years

According to NASA, Mars will be 35.8 million miles from Earth during its 2018 close approach.

The gravitational pull by other planets also constantly changes the shape of their orbits a little bit, with Jupiter especially influencing the path that Mars takes around the Sun. The next approach is on Oct 6, 2020.

It should be relatively easy to spot Mars, as long as cloud cover is minimal.

Although the red planet will be closer than normal, it will still only appear as a bright, red point of light in the sky.

That same day, parts of the world will see a total lunar eclipse, though Japan will only see the moon enter totality at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, shortly before it sets and the sun rises. Areas from the Plains to the West would have the best view of Mars as it passes Earth.

Mars will shine bright and look bigger between now and Tuesday. Astronomers expect good viewing through early August. As they approach Mars, the protons coming in with the solar wind transform into neutral atoms by stealing electrons from the outer edge of the huge clouds of hydrogen surrounding the planet.

Mars and Earth are the closest planets to each other. The Sun ejects protons at speeds up to two million miles per hour (more than 3 million kilometers per hour) in an erratic flow called the solar wind.

Flash flood watch into early Tuesday for Northern Virginia
Some thunderstorms are possible Thursday afternoon and during the evening rush, but they are not expected to be significant. The National Weather Service said there's a chance of showers Wednesday , and thunderstorms are possible in the afternoon.

The red planet is easily visible with the naked eye, but folks with a telescope may be able to see some details of the planet, including the planet's ice caps, according to AccuWeather.

"It's magnificent. It's as bright as an airplane landing light", Widener University astronomer Harry Augensen tells The Associated Press. "Not quite as bright as Venus, but still because of the reddish, orange-ish-red color, you really can't miss it in the sky".

The planet's close encounter in 2003 made headlines as it was the closest Mars came to Earth in almost 60,000 years, sparking rumors that it would appear as large as the moon.

They line up again at the same distance in 2287. NASA's Martian probes are now watching one unfold over the Red Planet.

On Friday, Mars will be in opposition, which means the sun and the Red Planet will be on the opposite side of Earth.

This summer, opposition occurs July 27, or overnight Thursday into early Friday morning.

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