Taipei, Mars will appear at its brightest since 2003 on July 27 as it moves the closest it has been to Earth in years, the Taipei Astronomical Museum said on Saturday.
While the exact time of the celestial event will be at 1:13 p.m. that day, which is next Friday, conditions for observing the Red Planet will become relatively ideal a few days before or after the event, according to the museum.
With Mars ascending around 7:30 p.m. every night, skywatchers can easily identify it with the naked eye simply by looking up at the eastern sky, the museum pointed out.
The planet's apparent magnitude could reach -2.9, compared with -2.5 for a new moon, it said. The magnitude measures the brightness of a celestial body as seen by an observer on Earth and falls in value the brighter an object becomes.
A Mars opposition occurs when the Earth passes between the sun and the red planet and all three are arranged in a nearly straight line, making the two planets also the closest to each other.
However, the episode on July 27 will be particularly unique because it will be the most significant opposition over the past 15 years, the museum said.
The opposition of Mars takes place approximately every two years, but due to the very elliptic orbit of Mars, the distance between Earth and Mars varies a lot during each encounter, it explained.
At the upcoming opposition, Mars will reach the closest to Earth among all oppositions in recent years, the museum said, adding that the difference between the farthest opposition and the closest opposition could be 43.2 million kilometers in distance.
This means the Red Planet will also become much brighter than usual during the upcoming opposition. The next time such a significant opposition will take place will be in 2035, according to the museum.
It said it will hold a series of events to familiarize the public with the astronomic episode.
Between 7-9 p.m. on July 27, the museum will set up a high-power telescope in the plaza west of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall to allow the public to enjoy free viewing.
The same access to its telescope will also be offered between 7-9 p.m. on July 31 at the museum.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel