Mars’ Approach 2018 – Telescope Viewing

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Prepare to see the red planet up close this summer. Mars will reach opposition with the sun in late July, while observers on Earth will have their closest view of the planet since 2003 and until 2035.

During opposition, Mars and the sun are on direct opposite sides of Earth. From our perspective, Mars rises in the east just as the sun sets in the west. Then, after staying up in the sky the entire night, Mars sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east. Therefore we get a clear dark view of the red planet during the night.

This year, Mars will reach opposition on July 28th, but will be closest to the Earth on July 31st. This time around Mars will only be 36 million miles away from Earth, down from the average 140 million that separates both planets. The red planet will still be 75 times smaller in the night sky than the Moon, but with a good telescope and clear skies features could be seen (the polar caps and surface details). The planet will also be extremely bright, twice the brightness of Jupiter (-2.8 magnitude).


  • Tuesday, July 31, 2018
  • Location: Bell Tower at UC Riverside
  • Suggested parking: UCR Parking Lot 4 ($1.5 for 1 hour)