Mars is coming close to Earth tonight — here’s how and when to see it

It’s a good month for stargazing.

First with a full harvest moon, later with a rare blue moon on Halloween, and now, it’s the red planet’s turn to steal the show. Mars will be much closer to Earth than usual tonight, and will appear bigger and brighter than it will for years.

But you’ll have two chances to see the planet in its prime: when it’s in “approach” Tuesday night —and when it’s in opposition next week.

Here’s all you need to know about catching this rare planetary spectacle.

What time can I see Mars?

The planet begins to make its 2020 close approach to Earth on Oct. 6. Mars will be visible skyward on Oct. 6, but the best time to see Mars will be midnight, according to NASA. As for where in the sky you’ll see the planet, look toward the southern sky.

Where is Mars in the sky and what does it look like?

From earth, Mars will look like a glowing orange orb. Without a telescope, it will still have an orange hue, but will be just a dot in the sky. Though less visible to us here on earth, the planet has two moons and is made of silicon, oxygen, iron and magnesium. Experts say it likely has the consistency of a soft, rocky paste.

It should be visible to the naked eye in non-light-polluted areas on a clear night.

“Simply go outside and look up and, depending on your local weather and lighting conditions, you should be able to see Mars,” NASA wrote.

How close will Mar be to Earth?

Mars in approach means its orbit is nearest our planet — at just 38.57 million miles. (For perspective, the moon is an average of 238,900 miles away.)

Will Mars be this close to Earth again?

Yes, though astronomers say it won’t come this close again for another 15 years, although that still doesn’t beat its 2003 record, which was about 3 million miles closer than what’s expected on Tuesday. That won’t happen again for another 267 years, on August 28, 2287.

What if I miss my chance?

Another prime Mars-viewing night will be on October 13, when it will be in opposition with the sun — meaning it will be its very brightest. This happens about once every two years.

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