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13th October 2020: biggest and brightest Mars opposition

Mon 12 Oct 2020    
| 2 min read

Mars will be easily visible from Earth as our home world runs right between the red planet and the sun. On 13th Oct. 2020 opposition to Mars will mark the next major planet to come to Earth by 2036.

It’s set to fully align on Oct. 13, when various details on the surface of the red planet, such as the southern polar cap and volcanoes, will be visible through a telescope.  Mars will be shining the brightest that it has in well over a decade.

Mars comes closest to Earth, a distance of 62 million km, on 13 October, when it reaches opposition.

What is Mars Opposition?

A specific alignment in the solar system where Earth will be directly between Mars and the sun. Mars Opposition happens about every two years, but this year is particularly noteworthy because it’s the closest the red planet can get to Earth.

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. So sometimes the two planets are on opposite sides of the sun, very far apart, and other times, Earth catches up with its neighbor and passes relatively close to it. Of course, nothing about motion in space is quite that simple! Our orbits are actually elliptical (oval-shaped), and we travel a little closer to the sun at one end of our orbits than at the other end.

When Can Opposition Occur?

Mars oppositions happen about every 26 months. Every 15 or 17 years, opposition occurs within a few weeks of Mars’ perihelion (the point in its orbit when it is closest to the sun). This year, Mars opposition occurs on Oct. 13, 2020.