On May 22, the Red Planet and the Sun will be on the exact opposite side of Earth, meaning all three will be perfectly aligned and offer a stunning view for scientists and skywatchers.
The Red Planet is getting closer and closer to Earth and providing scientists a great opportunity to look into its remarkable geological features.
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On May 22, Mars will come into Opposition – a point where Sun, Earth and Mars will be perfectly aligned. It means that Mars and the Sun will be on the exact opposite side of each other while Earth will be sitting in between the two.
Nevertheless, the whole month of May is exciting for scientists as well as skywatchers because this month the planet will make its closest approach to the Earth in a way that has not been seen in the last ten years. Since Mars will be exceptionally closer to Earth, it will appear bigger and brighter than usual.
Mars will be visible at night all along the week. If the skies are clearer, stargazers will be able to see red planet with their own eyes without the assistance of binoculars or telescopes.
Meanwhile Hubble Space Telescope has tested its skills and took an epic close-up view of Mars on May 12 when the planet was just 50 million miles away from the Earth – relatively closer in astronomical terms. The final image shows Martian surface in sharp, natural colors and reveal its prominent geological features from smaller mountains and channels to immense canyons and volcanoes in remarkably detailed fashion at a distance of as small as 30 kilometers across.
The orange area in the center of image is Arabia Terra which stretches across 2,800 miles of the planet. Scientists believe that it could be among the oldest features of the planet due to geological activity on its surface. To the far right, you can spot a large, dark region called Syrtis Major Planitia, an ancient inactive shield volcano, which was one of the first features identified on Mars’ surface by seventeenth century observers. Dark features running along the equator are Sinus Sabaeous (to the east) and Sinus Meridiani (to the west). These regions are covered by bedrocks of ancient lava flows.
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On May 30, Mars will be closest to the Earth with just 46.8 million miles separating them, meaning that the closest approach and opposition will not occur at the same time. On average, Mars and Sun will come into opposition in about 780 days. The last time Earth, Mars and Sun were lined up was in April 2014 while Earth and Mars close approach at the end of the month will be closest in nearly 11 years.