Mars zooms in for a close-up tonight … weather permitting

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July 31 marks a significant day in space science.

The nearest point to Earth in Mars´ elliptical orbit came at around 1100 GMT on Tuesday, NASA said.

Mars is now the closest to Earth than it has been in 15 years
Just 57.6 million kilometres apart, Mars will make its closest approach to Earth in 15 years

July has been rather eventful for the skywatchers; first, a partial solar eclipse on July 13, then a lunar eclipse on July 27 and now Mars coming the closest it has to earth in 15 years on July 31.

Mars which is already brighter than usual, will shine even more and will appear to be bigger on Tuesday. In the video, you can see telescopic imagery of the Red Planet, conversations between scientists as they observe the night sky, and guest appearances by a number of people, including "Star Trek: Voyager" actor Tim Russ, and former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

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The last time it came so close was on August 28, 2003, when it was within 55.76 million kilometres of Earth, according to EarthSky - and that was the closest it had been in nearly 60,000 years.

The maximum separation of the two planets is about 249 million miles (401 million km), and the average distance between them is 140 million miles, or 225 million km.

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If you're looking through binoculars or a telescope, you will not be able to see the detail you normally do on the planet's surface; there's a massive dust storm obscuring most planetary details right now. And if you miss it this time around, you'll have to wait another 269 years before it comes around again.

If the weather is a problem at your location due to the monsoon, you can view NASA's live stream of the Mars sighting from the Griffith Observatory.

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Creating a reliable, user-friendly life support system will be critical for any successful manned missions to Mars, NASA said in the announcement. It will be brighter than the gas giant Jupiter and as bright as Saturn in the night sky. Earth and Mars have oval shaped orbits, like all other planets. So, while it won't remain this bright in the night sky for long, it will be brilliant long enough for everyone to take a look. When the planet reaches its closest distance from Earth later today, it allows stargazers to see it in its brightest form.

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