Sunday night, Mars will make its closest approach to Earth, known as opposition. Slooh Observatory will be livecasting the event, which you can see in the below media player.
Opposition occurs when a planet anterior to Earth sits directly “behind” it, as if in a straight line going from the center of the sun through the Earth to the planet. In this way, it’s said to be directly opposite the sun in the sky, hence the name. An opposition event occurs every 26 months. At this opposition, Mars will be 0.51 AU from Earth, or 47,416,757 miles.
The next “perihelic opposition” is not set to take place until the next opposition in 2018, when Mars will be just 0.39 AU or 35,880,942 miles from Earth. That places it as close to Earth as it will get until 2035. The most distant opposition in recent years took place in 1995, when Mars was 0.68 AU from earth, or 62,809,309 miles. For a little bit more about oppositions past and present, check out this piece by our own Michael Bakich.
Slooh’s coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday night, after the sun goes down. Given its close approach, it will appear very bright in the sky, the second brightest object next to Jupiter (third if the moon is up.) To learn a little bit more about how to observe it, check out Michael’s helpful tutorial.