Yesterday, on May 30 (Monday), Mars was in its closest path to Earth after 11 years and people can see the Red Planet through their telescopes for at least two weeks. Technically, Mars was at 47.2 million miles from Earth and it will remain in and around 48 million miles distance till June 12, according to the Sky & Telescope.
Earlier, Mars was closer to Earth on August 27, 2013, when it was 34.6 million miles away, which was the closest path in several thousand years. According to reports, Mars will again come closer to Earth in July 2018, roughly 2 years later.
Sky & Telescope’s senior editor Alan M. MacRobert said in a statement:
“Just look southeast after the end of twilight, and you can’t miss it. Mars looks almost scary now, compared to how it normally looks in the sky. Mars comes to opposition, appearing directly opposite the Sun as seen from Earth, on the night of May 21st, right as the full Moon shines close to it. Opposition and closest approach are offset by several days due to the ellipticity of Mars’s orbit.”
If anyone interested in watching Mars in its closest distance to Earth, you could watch it online. The online Slooh Community Observatory will offer a free live webcast of Mars with its remotely operated telescopes. You can follow the webcast at Slooh.com, beginning at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT).
Mars is undergoing Climate Change like Earth
Like Earth, Mars is also grappling with climate change. According to a latest evidence published by NASA, the Red Planet is emerging from its ice age and warming up slowly.
According to a study by NASA, Mars retreated from a glacial period about 370,000 years ago and during that time the red planet was covered by ice in large areas. The study is also published Friday in the journal Science. Planetary scientist Isaac B. Smith at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, led the study.
NASA used an instrument on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to conduct the research. The radar data from MRO allowed an unprecedented examination of “the most recent Martian ice age recorded in the planet’s north polar ice cap.” The space organization attributed the changes to variations in Mars’ tilt and orbit, which cause “substantial shifts in the planet’s climate, including ice ages. Earth has a similar, but less variable, phases called Milankovitch cycles.”
NASA’s Mars Exploration webpage stated:
“As the warm polar period ends, polar ice begins accumulating again, while ice is lost from mid-latitudes. This retreat and regrowth of polar ice is exactly what Smith and colleagues see in the record revealed by the SHARAD [Shallow Subsurface Radar] radar images.”
The Italian Space Agency provided the SHARAD instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Sapienza University of Rome leads its operations. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver built the orbiter and supports its operations.