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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April 2003  


On the 27th August 2003, Mars will be less than 55.76 million kilometers away from earth. This is the closest Mars will have been to earth in over 60 000 years.

Every 26 months Mars and Earth pass close to each other in their orbits, this is called Mars Opposition, that is, Mars is Opposite to the Sun, as seen from earth.

27 August 2003, Earth and Mars PositionsThe image on the right shows the position of Earth and Mars on the 27th August 2003.

Because Earth's and Mars' orbits are not perfectly round, the distance between the two is different each time they come close, in August 2003 we are closer to Mars than we have been for a long, long time.

The brightest object in the sky is the Sun, followed by the Moon, the International Space Station and then Venus and Jupiter.

From the middle of July till early October, Mars will be brighter than Jupiter, but it will not get brighter than Venus.

To see Mars at this time, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, look north at about midnight, should be hard to miss. In the Northern Hemisphere, look south at midnight. With a telescope you will be able to see features on the surface of Mars!


Spotting Planets

There are 5 planets visible to the naked eye in our solar system. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These are very bright in the sky compared to stars, and can be seen earlier in the evening and later in the morning than stars. Venus is often the first object you can see in the sky at dusk.

Planets move with relation to the background of stars over the course of days, where stars seem to all move together in the sky.

Planets also twinkle a lot less than stars do, if you see a bright star at night that does not twinkle, then it is most likely a planet.

Finally, all the planets move roughly in the same orbital plane. So if you can look along the arc that the sun curves out during the day, the planets will be quite close to that arc in the sky at night.


Happy Star Gazing!



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