Prime News, International and National, Science, Cape Canaveral (USA), July 31:- Mars, the red planet is making its closest approach to Earth in 15 years today.
The two planets will be just 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometres) apart on Tuesday. Mars is already brighter than usual and will shine even more, and appear bigger. Astronomers expect good viewing through early August.
A massive dust storm presently engulfing Mars, however, is obscuring surface details normally visible through telescopes. The Martian atmosphere is so full of dust that National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Opportunity rover can’t recharge — not enough sunlight can reach its solar panels and so it’s been silent since June 10.
Flight controllers don’t expect to hear from 14-year-old Opportunity until the storm subsides, and maybe not even then. The good news about all the Martian dust is that it reflects sunlight, which makes for an even brighter red planet, said Widener University astronomer Harry Augensen.
In 2003, Mars and Earth were the closest in nearly 60,000 years — 34.6 million miles (55.7 million kilometres). NASA said that won’t happen again until 2287. The next close approach, meanwhile, in 2020, will be 38.6 million miles (62 million kilometres), according to NASA. –(Inputs: Agencies, NGB)