Washington: Mars is making its closest approach to Earth in 15 years on Tuesday July 31, 2018, which means the red planet will be shinier and bigger and easier to observe, said U.S. space agency NASA.
The two planets will be just 57.6 million km apart on July 31, while Mars will appear brightest on July 27-30, making it easier to be seen with telescope or the naked eye.
"It's magnificent. It's as bright as an airplane landing light," said astronomer Harry Augensen from Widener University, Pennsylvania. "Not quite as bright as Venus, but still because of the reddish, orange-ish-red color, you really can't miss it in the sky."
Before the closest approach, Mars will be in opposition on Friday, which means Mars and the Sun will appear in opposite positions as viewed from Earth. On the same day, the longest total lunar eclipse of this century will be visible in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America, Xinhua reported.
Mars will look fainter by mid-August since it travels farther away from Earth in the orbit around the Sun. Mars and Earth were closer than this year in 2003, when the two planets were just 55.7 million km apart, which was the closest in nearly 60,000 years and won't happen again until 2287, NASA said.
On the same day, Moon will be eclipsed and lose its brightness. The total Lunar eclipse, which will be longest in this century, will start at 11:54 pm (Indian Standard Time) on Friday July 27. The Moon will be gradually covered by the Earth's shadow and the totality phase will begin at 1 am on July 28.
The total eclipse will last up to 2.43 hours. Then the Moon will start to gradually come out of Earth's shadow and partial eclipse will end at 3:49 am IST on July 28. Such long duration of total lunar eclipses had earlier occurred on July 16, 2000 for total duration of 1 hour 46 minutes and another one on June 15, 2011 for totality duration of 1 hour 40 minutes.
The eclipse will be visible in entire India. It will also be visible in the region covering Middle East, Australia, Asia, Russia but will not be visible in Africa, Europe, east of South America and Antarctica.
This will be a rare cosmic alignment, when Mars at close to its maximum brightness will add to the spectacle by appearing directly below the Blood Moon.
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