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Mars is about to be the closest it's been to Earth since 2003, giving us Earthlings the best view of the Red Planet in 15 years. Another close approach won't happen until September 11, 2035, when Mars will be 35.4 million miles away.

The local stargazers are invited for a camp to witness the Red Planet from 7 pm to 10 pm tonight at the Colombo Campus grounds. It's rocky, it's not too big or too small and its temperature isn't that far off from what we experience here on Earth, relative to the rest of the planets in our neighborhood.

It is noted that Mars was very bright already from the 27th of July, but on 31 July he came as close as possible to the Ground.

Because Earth and Mars have elliptical orbits and are slightly tilted to each other, all close approaches are not equal.

The PSI Director said, at 1320 hrs today, Planet Mars is placed at 0.38496 AU = 57.59 million km.

Those who desire the terraforming of Mars suggest that a mixture of carbon dioxide and water vapor would from the greenhouse gases needed in order to heat the Red Planet.

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That's because Earth's orbit around the sun is 365 days, but it takes Mars 687 days to take a lap around our star. A close encounter with Earth like this won't happen again until the year 2287. In the evening, half-an-hour after sunset, looking towards the sky opposite direction to sunset, one can spot planet Mars between East and South East direction.

Luckily, you can see Mars easily with the naked eye. At this point, the ringed planet was 1.4 billion kilometers (870 million miles) away from Earth and its spectacular rings are almost at maximum tilt toward the planet, offering a breathtaking angle of Saturn to photograph.

When the Sun, Eart and Mars are lined up, with Earth sitting in between, a phenomenon called "opposition" is in effect, giving the brightest view of Mars.

According to NASA, Mars will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight, when we will be able to see it approximately 35 degrees above the southern horizon.

Mars will be visible in the night sky after sunset till sunrise from everywhere in India, provided the monsoon clouds don't play spoilsport. The late-summer skies are filled with celestial gems and this August also brings us three great planets!

There are observational camps conducted by astronomers all over the world to observe this rare event.