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Mars is about to be the closest it's been to Earth since 2003, giving us Earthlings the best view of the Red Planet in 15 years.

Since the Earth and Mars align in opposition about every two years, "this is why most NASA missions to the Red Planet are at least two years apart - to take advantage of the closer distance". In 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth-34.6 million miles-in almost 60,000 years.

The local stargazers are invited for a camp to witness the Red Planet from 7 pm to 10 pm tonight at the Colombo Campus grounds.

You'll be able to see Mars into the fall, but it will get smaller and smaller as its orbit takes it farther away from Earth.

Astronomers say that it will appear bright until early in September. The minimum distance from the Earth to Mars is about 33.9 million miles.

The planet will remain bright for several weeks, and you can also view the planets Saturn, Jupiter and Venus in a "long arc across the sky from east to west" shortly after sunset.

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And we could probably put human beings on Mars in a couple of decades - they would just have to live in enclosed habitats and wear space suits while walking around outside.

Transforming planets as a pre-cursor to colonisation is a staple of science fiction, and an aspiration for individuals including Elon Musk, whose company SpaceX uses images of terraforming Mars in its promotional material. NASA is in no mood for that: "The message is that Mars will look as big as the moon in our night sky". This type of proximity won't occur again until 2287. On July 31st, Mars will be 35.8 million miles from Earth, which is the closest it has been to Earth in 15 years. At nightfall Jupiter is shining brightly in the south-southwestern sky, and Saturn is just off to the lower left in the low south-southeast. It has a very helpful atmosphere, which, being primarily Carbon dioxide with some nitrogen and argon and a few other trace elements, means that we can grow plants on Mars just by compressing the atmosphere.

Luckily, you can see Mars easily with the naked eye.

Moreover, although Mars has enough ice to obtain large amounts of water vapor, water can not heat the gas shell to the desired level in the absence of carbon dioxide.

Astronomical event was broadcast by NASA from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.


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