Do you want to see the Red Planet ? Now is the time to see it as Mars comes closer to Earth after 15 years.
The Red Planet would be coming to earth after 15 years with the distance of separation between the two planets being 35.8 million miles.
Due to a phenomenon called perihelic opposition, in which Earth’s and Mars’ orbits align, bringing the two planets closer together. Although the planet was at its brightest in July, it is expected to be far more brighter in the upcoming week.
The distance between the planets vary from time to time. It’s mostly because the planets revolve around the sun in different orbits. The Earth is closer to Sun and takes 365 days to complete a revolution whereas the red planet takes 687 days to complete a revolution around the Sun. The planets could be closer to each other at one time and could be far away from each other at another. Last time the planets came this close to each other was in 2003 when the distance of separation between the planets was 34.9 million miles.
The planet would be at its brightest on August 1 at 1:20 PM IST ( July 31, 3:50 AM ET). Usually you can see the red planet and the gas giant Jupiter during early dawn with Mars being Red and Jupiter being the brightest. But Mars would be brighter than the gas giant because of the close distance.
It’s an interesting time to see Mars as a massive dust storm engulf the entire planet. Dust storms are fairly common on Mars. Usually the occur on isolated regions. Some last for weeks. But rarely a single dust storm covers the entire planet. The two probes Opportunity and Curiosity sent by NASA to Mars is in sleep mode to ride over the storm. Communications with Opportunity rover has been lost and NASA is not expecting to hear from the rover until the skies clear. Curiosity is a nuclear powered rover and is not expected to have any problems from the dust storm. Where as Opportunity is solar powered rover. NASA thinks that the rover’s battery levels would have fell below 24 volts forcing the rover to put itself in sleep mode. The rover is programmed to wake up once in a while to check its battery levels. Provided the storm clears soon, the 15 year rover could survive to live another day.
Link to NASA Briefing about Dust Storm – https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/opportunity-hunkers-down-during-dust-storm