Mars Takes Closer look at Earth

By Gus Bode

‘Red Planet’ to be closer to Earth in almost 60,000 years.

On Wednesday morning, at 5:51 a.m. EDT, Mars will be less than 34,646,418 miles away from Earth, the closest it has been in nearly 60,000 years.

You won’t see little green martians or alien life forms flying around the sky. But Joseph Masden, astronomy professor at SIU, said you will see something.


“A bright, pinkish-orangish star will be visible,” Masden said.

Mars, the Roman god of war, also referred to as the “Red Planet”, will appear in the southeastern sky within the constellation of Aquarius. Mars will be most visible high in the southern skies around midnight and low in the southwestern sky near dawn.

Mars has been visible since mid-August and will continue until early September.

“It will reach its peak early Wednesday morning,” Masden said. “And after that, it will gradually start fading away.”

Now through Sept. 2, Mars will have a magnitude of -2.7. Magnitude is a

term used to measure the brightness of stars and planets. Negative numbers are used for the brightest objects.

This week, the “Red Planet” will outshine Sirius, the brightest of all the stars. Except for Venus, which has a -4.0 magnitude, no other planet or star is brighter than Mars currently is.


Typically, it takes 21 minutes to get a light or radio signal from Earth to Mars. But, on Wednesday, the travel time of signals to Mars will only take three minutes and six seconds and will be 186 light seconds away from Earth.

Bary Malik, SIUC astronomy professor, explained how the positions of planets are important in the appearance of Mars.

“Mars and Earth are on the same side of the sun right now,” Malik said.

Mars, Earth and the sun form a straight line in space during opposition. But on Wednesday, Mars and Earth will share the same side of the sky across from the Sun.

With NASA sending up satellites to get an even closer look, the appearance of Mars has an even greater significance, Malik explained.

“We will get some of the best photographs of Mars in generations,” Malik said.

Mars will not appear this close to Earth again until August 28, 2287. A public viewing will take place on Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. at the rooftop of the Neckers building.

Reporter Bethany Krajelis can be reached at [email protected]