Mars will have its closest encounter with Earth for 15 years next month

Red Planet comes closer to Earth than it has been in years, making it easily visible with the naked eye (NASA)

Mars is about to have its closest encounter with Earth for more than a decade, and the Red Planet will be clearly visible to the naked eye, NASA has said.

Mars will reach ‘opposition’ with the Sun in the days around July 27, NASA says.

It’ll be visible as a red dot in the sky, and should be at its brightest just before dawn, EarthSky says.

It’s all to do with Mars and Earth’s orbits intersecting, NASA says, and hitting a point where they pass very close to one another.

NASA says, ‘‘Like all the planets in our solar system, Earth and Mars orbit the sun. But Earth is closer to the sun, and therefore races along its orbit more quickly. Earth makes two trips around the sun in about the same amount of time that Mars takes to make one trip.

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‘So sometimes the two planets are on opposite sides of the sun, very far apart, and other times, Earth catches up with its neighbour and passes relatively close to it.’

‘Since Mars and the sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that Mars is in “opposition.”