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What’s Up – July 2018

What’s Up for July?

Mars is closest to Earth since 2003!

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July’s night skies feature Mars opposition on the 27th, when Mars, Earth, and the Sun all line up, and Mars’ closest approach to Earth since 2003 on the 31st. 

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If you’ve been sky watching for 15 years or more, then you’ll remember August 2003, when Mars approached closer to Earth than it had for thousands of years.

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It was a very small percentage closer, but not so much that it was as big as the moon as some claimed.   

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Astronomy clubs everywhere had long lines of people looking through their telescopes at the red planet, and they will again this month!

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 If you are new to stargazing, this month and next will be a great time to check out Mars. 

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Through a telescope, you should be able to make out some of the light and dark features, and sometimes polar ice. Right now, though, a huge Martian dust storm is obscuring many features, and less planetary detail is visible.

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July 27th is Mars opposition, when Mars, Earth, and the Sun all line up, with Earth directly in the middle.

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A few days later on July 31st is Mars’ closest approach. That’s when Mars and Earth are nearest to each other in their orbits around the Sun. Although there will be a lot of news focusing on one or the other of these two dates, Mars will be visible for many months.

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By the end of July, Mars will be visible at sunset.

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But the best time to view it is several hours after sunset, when Mars will appear higher in the sky.

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Mars will still be visible after July and August, but each month it will shrink in apparent size as it travels farther from Earth in its orbit around the Sun.

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On July 27th a total lunar eclipse will be visible in Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.

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For those viewers, Mars will be right next to the eclipsing moon!

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Next month will feature August’s summer Perseids. It’s not too soon to plan a dark sky getaway for the most popular meteor shower of the year! 

Watch the full What’s Up for July Video:

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Source: NASA

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What’s Up – July 2018

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