Mars to Shine Brightest on October 13

Skywatch A visit from the red planet

Skywatch A visit from the red planet

"This period of excellent visibility coincides with the event known as opposition, which occurs about every two years, when Mars is directly on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun".

Although cloudy weather is forecast for parts of the UK, Mars should be visible among any breaks and even through lighter cloud, Ms Banyard said.

The Red Planet is now at its closest point to our bit Rabbit, so the sky looks brighter than usual, and even bigger through binoculars. Mars will be a fiery red - it will not be this bright again until 2035.

But at opposition, it looks bigger and brighter, NASA explained.

The Mars opposition is related to "Mars close approach", which is the point where Mars and Earth come nearest to each other in their orbits around the sun. Go out at 8pm, go back to the sunset as the sky grows darker and you will see that Mars is low in the east, like a bright orange star above the horizon.

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"Then, after staying up in the sky the entire night, Mars sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east". Because Mars orbits the Sun in nearly an egg-shaped motion it can be as far as 250 million miles away from Earth or as close as about 40 million miles away.

Being "close" is relative, at its closest, Mars will still be 33.9 million miles away, according to NASA. Mars, the fourth planet in the solar system, is now in a position that is very close to Earth, so it can be seen by all fans without the use of a telescope.

Spacecraft from several nations are now on the way to Mars, including NASA's Mars 2020 mission, which is scheduled to land there in February.

The mission marks NASA's ninth journey to the Martian surface.

Scientists have long debated whether Mars - once a much more hospitable place than it is today - ever harboured life.

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