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Mars Opposition on October 30, 2005
News story originally written on September 22, 2005

Sometimes Earth gets pretty close to the planet Mars. Mars and Earth will be close to each other on October 30, 2005. Mars will look like a bright red star. Mars will be about 69 million km (43 million miles) from Earth. Even when planets are "close" to each other, they are still a long way apart!

Earth and Mars get pretty close together once every 26 months. When the two planets get close, astronomers call the event an "opposition". That is because the Sun and Mars are on opposite sides of the sky during an opposition. The orbit of Mars is not quite a circle. It is shaped more like an oval. Sometimes Earth gets closer to Mars than normal when Mars is at just the right place in its orbit. When it does, we have a really "close" opposition. Mars was really, really close to Earth in August 2003. It will be pretty close to Earth in October 2005.

Check out this movie of the orbits of Earth and Mars to see where the planets are right now.

When Earth is close to Mars, Mars looks like a very bright star in the sky. If you get a chance to see Mars through a telescope, it will look a bit bigger than usual. If you want a really close-up view of Mars, though, the best way to get that is to look at pictures from spacecraft orbiting Mars!

Last modified September 22, 2005 by Randy Russell.

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