If you’re looking for a fun activity to add to your Memorial Day plans, here’s an easy one: look up. According to NASA, Mars will be making its closest approach to Earth since 2005 on May 30th, coming within 46.8 million miles of our planet.
Although Mars has been appearing brighter than usual in the night sky since May 18th and will continue to do so until June 3rd, this Monday night at around midnight will be the best time to catch it at its largest (providing you’re in an area where you can actually see the night sky). Here’s a chart of the planet’s progress:
As NASA explains, because of the elliptical nature of the orbits of Earth and Mars, as well as the gravitational pull of other nearby planets, the shape of their orbits is constantly in flux. In other words, not all close approaches are the same, which is why we won’t see an approach as close as we did in 2003 until 2287.
Also, if you see any Facebook posts about Mars looking as large as the moon, don’t fall for it. NASA warns that if Mars were to ever get that close to Earth, we’d all be in a whole heap of trouble.
And finally, if for some reason you can’t find Mars in the sky tonight (or just can’t be bothered to go outside), know that an even closer approach will occur on July 31st, 2018 — just a little over two years from today.