Mars makes its closest approach to Earth in 17 years 

Mars will shine especially bright in the sky tonight as the Red Planet makes its closest approach to Earth in 17 years Mars will be about 34 million miles away from the Earth and visible tonight It will rise in the sky at about 7pm and be at peak visibility just after midnight  It is closer than usual to the Earth due to the two planets differing orbits It will appear slightly reddish in colour and can be seen to the right of the Moon 

By Ryan Morrison For Mailonline

Published: 14:34 BST, 6 October 2020 | Updated: 14:34 BST, 6 October 2020

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Mars will be closer to Earth tonight than at any point in the past 17 years tonight and will be the second brightest object in the night sky after the Moon, astronomers say.

The Red Planet is at its point of opposition, with the Earth passing directly between it and the Sun and will appear 'effectively as a full Mars', according to NASA.

It will be visible with the naked eye and appear slightly reddish in colour and looking through a telescope should allow you to spot surface features and polar ice caps.

From the UK the planet will rise above the horizon at about 19:00 BST but will be best viewed after midnight - ideally in an area with a clear sky and minimal light pollution. 

To view Mars in the night sky you should look to the right of the Moon and towards the constellation Pisces - it will be the second brightest object after the Moon. 

'Simply go outside and look up and, depending on your local weather and lighting conditions, you should be able to see Mars,' NASA wrote in a blog post. 

The Red Planet is at its point of opposition, with the Earth passing directly between it and the Sun and will appear 'effectively as a full Mars', according to NASA

The Red Planet is at its point of opposition, with the Earth passing directly between it and the Sun and will appear 'effectively as a full Mars', according to NASA

It will be visible with the naked eye and appear slightly reddish in colour and looking through a telescope should allow you to spot surface features and polar ice caps

It will be visible with the naked eye and appear slightly reddish in colour and looking through a telescope should allow you to spot surface features and polar ice caps

Mars reaches its closest point to Earth every two years, but not every close approach is equal, with distances varying by millions of miles even during the closest points. 

The two planets aren't on an exactly circular orbit - so every 15 or 17 years the gap gets a little bit closer - this year Mars will come 38.6 million miles from Earth. 

This is the closest approach since 2003 when Mars was 34 million miles away - the closest in 60,000 years. It won't be that close again until 2287. 

The next time Mars and the Earth will be as close as it is this year will be in 2035 - around the time NASA hopes to send astronauts to the Red Planet.

'If Earth and Mars had perfectly circular orbits, their minimum distance would always be the same. However, they have elliptical (egg-shaped) paths,' NASA said.

'In addition, gravitational tugging

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