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Mars - Up Close and Personal

The above image is displayed with permission of NASA.

The Red Planet

Mars has been fascinating mankind for centuries. We now know that it's not covered with a network of canals and no life has been discovered by the various probes that have been sent to its surface, but it changing weather patterns and are still pleasurable to watch.

What's Special About This Year?

The best time to see Mars in 60,000 years will be on the night of August 26th-August 27th 2003. At exactly 09:10 UT August 27, Mars will be a mere 55,758,006 kilometers (34,646,418 miles) from the Earth.

Because the Earth orbits the Sun more rapidly than Mars, it "passes" Mars every 14 months or so and that's when we get the best view of Mars. Since the Earth and Mars move in an elliptical orbit some passes are better than others. This summer the Earth and Moon will be particularly close to each other so that the Red Planet will appear both large and bright.

Mars will appear to observers in the northern hemisphere at about 1 or 2 in the morning due south, about 30 degrees above the horizon in the constellation of Aquarius. It will be quite bright and reddish and difficult to miss. Those fortunate enough to be south of the equator will see it much higher in the sky towards the north.

If you miss it or the weather is poor, donít despair. Mars will be even closer and appear larger on August 28, 2287. I canít guarantee that SkyWatch will be covering that one though.