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While Mars has seemed closer for a while now, it will seem biggest and brightest through the end of the July, since Mars Close Approach is July 31.

On Earth, the Northern and Southern lights occur when the solar wind (electrically charged particles from the Sun) follow our planet's geomagnetic field lines to the poles and collide with the upper atmosphere. Mars will be at a distance of 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers). Since 2003, an urban legend is circulated through email and social media every times Mars makes a close approach. Mars will still be more visible than normal for a while, but will become fainter as it travels farther from Earth during the planets' orbits around the sun.

"In this case it's going to appear about five times brighter than usual", added Kelly. Astronomers expect good viewing through early August.

A massive dust storm that has engulfed the planet will make viewing surface details more hard than it typically would be for those using a telescope, but the dust also reflects the sun's light better, making the planet appear all that much brighter.

If you've looked outside anytime after sunset recently, you've probably thought Mars looks a bit bigger than you remember it. Its closest approach to Earth is July 31.

'It's magnificent. It's as bright as an airplane landing light, ' Augensen said.

On Friday, Mars will be at "opposition", which occurs when the Earth lies directly between Mars and the sun, making the sun and Mars appear in opposite directions as viewed from the Earth.

The planet's closest approach to Earth occurred in 2003 when the two planets drew within 34.6 million miles, the closest approach in almost 60,000 years.

"It will appear to be a very bright orange star and you'll be able to watch it creep across the sky", said Kelly. NASA notes that many missions to Mars coincide with these close approaches. NASA said that won't happen again until 2287. In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli claimed to have seen canals on Mars, suggesting there could be possible civilization, or Martians, on the red planet. On Mars, they are the result of protons, and scientists have just figured out how the events happen. For some, that means a chance to see a total lunar eclipse - the longest of the 21st century, but the eclipse won't be visible from the United States.


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