Oppositions past and future

The Red Planet swings close every 26 months, but puts on a different show every time.
By | Published: May 16, 2016 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Astronomy: Roen Kelly and Michael E. Bakich
When the Sun, Earth, and Mars line up, astronomers call it an opposition. But not all oppositions are the same. The numbers in parentheses show the planets’ closest approaches (in astronomical units [AU]) around five oppositions past and future, along with Mars’ magnitude, or apparent brightness. One AU is the average Earth-Sun distance.