Mars is to be observed in unprecedented conditions at the moment. This 6 October 2020, the planet is closest to Earth, at a distance of 62 million kilometers.

62 million kilometers : this is the distance that separates Mars from Earth today. This Tuesday 6 October 2020, the planet is at its perigee. This is an unusual event : it is possible to admire Mars today in conditions that have not occurred since 15 years, due to its proximity and position in the sky.

"Mars at this time is very bright and very easy to see with the naked eye", confirms Eric Lagadec, assistant astronomer at the Lagrange Laboratory of the Côte d´Azur Observatory, from Numerama. The gradual rapprochement of Mars with the Earth is clearly visible in the photographs of the star shared on social networks by amateur and professional astronomers. On this image, Andy Casely, which regularly publishes views of the sky, made a montage of his telescope observations, where we see Mars getting bigger and bigger - as it approaches. " She has passed 2020 to approach the Earth, during the spring and summer of the southern hemisphere of Mars ", comments the astrophotographer.

#Mars is here ! It’s spent 2020 approaching Earth, during the Martian southern spring and summer. Hope it’s bringing some intelligent life here 🤔

Mars is exactly at the perigee at 4:18 p.m., time when the planet is obviously not visible in the sky. This week, you have to wait until 8:20 p.m. to observe Mars, which is in the constellation Pisces, to the naked eye. It remains observable until 8 a.m.. The planet is currently positioned so that it can be seen from both the northern and southern hemispheres.

The perigee of Mars occurs a week before another notable astronomical event : Tuesday 13 October, the red planet will be in opposition. This will result in "optimal observing conditions for Mars, which will be visible all night (to the east at the beginning of the night, in the west at dawn) », explains Eric Lagadec. The opposition occurs when the angular difference between two stars in the sky is 180 °. More simply, this means that Mars is opposite the Sun in the sky, when observed from Earth. When Sun sets, Mars is rising, and vice versa. The Mars opposition takes place every two years.

It is no coincidence that space missions to the planet have multiplied in recent months, as the scientific mediator Pierre Henriquet points out on Twitter. The Mars mission 2020, which embeds the Perseverance rover, for example left Earth at the end of July. Space exploration projects take advantage of particular configurations, like the connections between the stars.

Such a rapprochement between Earth and Mars will not happen again anytime soon, warns ScienceAlert : It will be necessary to wait 2029 so that the two stars again begin to reduce the distance between them, to arrive at a gap of 56,9 million kilometers in 2035. In two years, March will be at 81 million kilometers, according to the details of Eric Lagadec.

The opportunity to distinguish the radiance of Mars as well, with or without instrument, is therefore to be seized. To follow the position of the planet in the sky these days, you can use the Heavens-Above site (by indicating your position in the box on the right). You can also see here the position of the planets in the solar system, including those of Mars and Earth.

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