Mars has been getting bigger and brighter in the night sky in 2018, and it will reach its peak on Thursday night, bringing the best opportunity for you to check out the Red Planet since 2003.

“The reason Mars is becoming so bright is the fact that we are approaching Mars’ opposition; this is the time when Earth will be directly between the planet and the sun,“ AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said.

Mars at opposition will take place on Thursday night into early Friday morning -- the first time that Mars has been at opposition since May 2016.

Due to the different orbits that Earth and Mars take around the sun, they will not reach their closest point to each other until July 31. However, the planet will appear around the same brightness on the night of opposition and the night that it is making its closest approach to Earth.

The cool thing about Thursday night is the fact that Mars will be easy to see (unless we're completely enveloped in cloud cover). Mars will be shining brightly, and it will poised in the sky directly underneath a nearly full moon.

“Even with bright moonlight, you can't miss Mars,” Samuhel added.

Mars will rise in the southeast around sunset and slowly track across the sky throughout the night before setting to the southwest around sunrise, local time.

“The planet is highest in the sky after midnight, but it will continue to rise earlier and earlier each night,” Samuhel said.

The red planet is easily visible with the naked eye, but folks with a telescope may be able to see some details of the planet, including the planet’s ice caps.



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