Can’t sleep tonight? Then take a look outside. Mars has always been visible to the naked eye, but especially tonight and tomorrow you can see the planet extra well. You will not get that chance again until 2033.
“Mars and the earth are close to each other every 26 months”, explains Artemis Westenberg from the Explore Mars Nederland Foundation. “The Earth is the third planet from the Sun and Mars the fourth. They both make their own orbits, but Mars’s is longer. In fact, the Earth is catching up with Mars at some point and that is now: then. they are in a straight line from each other. “
Sometimes Mars is better visible after those 26 months than other times. Westenberg refers to 2003. “Then it was really close. You see a kind of star, a bit orangish.”
It’s still about 38.5 million kilometers from Earth, but this evening and night Mars is about 71 percent larger than normal in our sky, says Westenberg. “It is also twelve times brighter than normal, so it is really well lit. It is best visible at 2:30 am.” You have to look east for that. The only troublemaker tonight may be the clouds. “That has to disappear, otherwise it won’t work.”
The next time Mars is so close and clearly visible will be delayed. “In 26 months it will be a bit further away and it will remain a number of times after that. But in 2033 it will be just as far as it is now. Two years later there will be another five million kilometers, so Mars will be even bigger for us. . “