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Mars to make its closest approach to Earth in 15 years

Jul 31, 2018 14:43 IST
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Now’s the time to catch Mars in the night sky.

The red planet is making its closest approach to Earth in 15 years on Tuesday. The two planets will be just 57.6 million kilometres apart.

Last week, Mars was already brighter than usual and will shine even more — and appear bigger — on Tuesday. Astronomers expect good viewing through early August.

A massive dust storm presently engulfing Mars, however, is obscuring surface details normally visible through telescopes. The Martian atmosphere is so full of dust that NASA’s Opportunity rover can’t recharge — not enough sunlight can reach its solar panels — and so it’s been silent since June 10. Flight controllers don’t expect to hear from 14-year-old Opportunity until the storm subsides, and maybe not even then.