Mars in opposition 2016 (Image credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team [STScI/AURA], J. Bell [ASU], and M. Wolff [Space Science Institute])
A new image taken by the Hubble space telescope shows Mars in incredible detail as astronomers prepare for a close-up with the red planet.
Operated by NASA and the European Space Agency, Hubble took the Mars image on May 12. “During May 2016 the Earth and Mars get closer to each other than at any time in the last ten years,” explained the ESA, in a statement.
On Sunday, Mars will “come into opposition,” which refers to the point at which the planet is located directly opposite the Sun in the sky. “This means that the Sun, Earth and Mars line up, with Earth sitting in between the Sun and the Red Planet,” explained the ESA.
The event also heralds the planet’s closest approach to Earth, with Mars appearing bigger and brighter in the sky than usual, according to the space agency. “This event allows astronomers using telescopes in space and on the ground to see more details on the Martian surface,” it explained. “For observers using ground-based instruments the opposing planet is visible throughout the night and is also fully illuminated, making it a great opportunity for detailed studies.”
Opposition will occur at 7:10 a.m. ET Sunday, with Mars’ closest approach taking place on May 30 at 5:36 p.m. ET. At that time, Mars will be 46.78 million miles from Earth. The closest ever recorded oppositional approach was in 2003 when the red planet was 34.65 million away – its closest approach in 60,000 years.
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