Pale Red Dot

Mars Was so Close This Week That You Can See Its Surface From Your Backyard

Here are our favorite shots.

10. 15. 20 by Dan Robitzski
Eric Kilby via NASA/JPL
Image by Eric Kilby via NASA/JPL

Mars appeared at its absolute brightest on Tuesday night, due to a perfect planetary alignment that allowed it to reflect more sunlight towards Earth.

That’s because Mars was in opposition, or on the exact opposite side of Earth from the Sun, The Washington Post reports. That, coupled with the fact that Mars happened to be particularly close to the earth in its orbit right now, made the planet so crisp that amateur astronomers with telescopes could take crisp photos of its surface right from their backyards.

Photographers documented the event well, like with this time-lapse video shared on Reddit that shows the entire planet clearly rotating.


Mars is actually in opposition fairly frequently — about once every 26 months, according to NASA. But what’s much less common is for opposition to line up with Mars and Earth passing close by to each other in their orbits. That only happens once every 15 to 17 years, making Tuesday night’s occurrence a rare occasion.

Mars actually made its closest approach to Earth a week earlier, on October 6, and it won’t approach that close again until 2035, WaPo reports.


But in case you missed the show, Mars will once again pass near Earth on the first day of December 2022 and will go into opposition a week later, creating a repeat performance — albeit a less dazzling one — of Tuesday’s show.

READ MORE: Mars to shine extra bright tonight, poised opposite the sun [The Washington Post]


More on Mars: NASA Snaps Photo of Epic Dust Devil on the Surface of Mars

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