Earth comes closer to Mars this month than it has in nearly 60,000 years.
The fiery red planet will begin to appear this week during bright evening twilight. On Aug. 27 at (9:51 Universal Time), Mars will be slightly closer to us than it has ever been in recorded human history--a mere 34.6 millions miles from Earth.
This is because its closest approach to Earth almost coincides with its closest approach to the sun. Finally on Aug. 28 it will be at opposition -- opposite the sun in our sky and therefore visible all night as it crosses the southern sky. It will far outshine everything in the sky except the moon.
To the naked eye, Mars will appear to be a blazing star-- the brightest object in the southern sky. With a telescope or even binoculars viewers will see, weather permitting, a vivid picture of its surface, including the brilliant white southern ice cap.
The viewing already is exceptional in the early evening hours. By Wednesday it will be at its peak. But Mars will remain distinct in the sky through the end of September.
UPDATE: At 5:51 a.m. ET on Aug. 27, Mars will be nearer to Earth than it has been in 59,619 years. A similar opportunity won't occur again until the year 2287