Mars came to within just 57.6 million km of Earth, which is the nearest the pair has been for 15 years
Mars was at opposition – when the Sun, Earth and Mars align in that order – on 27 July. The planet was a mere 57.6 million km from Earth, the nearest it has come since 2003. During opposition, Mars appears bigger and brighter in the night sky. UK sky watchers were treated to a rare sight on the day of opposition when the Red Planet was briefly visible alongside the red Moon of a lunar eclipse – in the few places that weren’t completely clouded out, that is.
One telescope that doesn’t have to worry about bad weather is the Hubble Space Telescope. It took advantage of the close pass to snap a new pair of ‘family photos’ of both the Red Planet and Saturn, which was also going through opposition. The planet’s features are slightly blurred in the photo, but not by the seeing that often affects images of Mars taken from inside Earth’s atmosphere. Instead, the haze of a giant dust storm on Mars was to blame.
Mars on the day of opposition, shrouded in a massive dust storm, captured by Hubble