"How High the Moon"

Mars - The Closest in Our Lifetime
Moon, Mars, and Saturn


Subject: Mars - The Closest in Our Lifetime
Date: Wednesday, July 23, 2003 1:15 PM

Close Encounter with Mars

Never again in your lifetime 
will the Red Planet be so spectacular.

During July and August Earth is catching up 
with Mars, an encounter culminating in the 
closest approach between the two planets in 
recorded history. The next time Mars may 
come this close is in 2287.

Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on Mars 
and affects its orbit, astronomers can only 
be certain that Mars has not  come this close 
to Earth in the last 5,000 years but it may 
be as long as 60,000 years.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th 
when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles 
and will be, next to the moon, the brightest 
object in the night sky. It will attain a 
magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc 
seconds wide. Mars will look similar to the 
full moon to the naked eye at a modest 
75-power magnification and will be easy to 

At the beginning of August, Mars will rise 
in the east at 10:00 PM and reach its azimuth 
at about 3:00 AM. By the end of August, when 
the two planets are closest, Mars will rise 
at nightfall and reach its highest point in 
the sky at 12:30 AM.

That's pretty convenient when it comes to 
seeing something that no human has seen in 
recorded history. So, mark your calendar at 
the beginning of August to see Mars grow 
progressively brighter throughout the month.

Share with your children and grandchildren. 
No one alive today will ever see this again.

Take care, as always,