Mars won’t be this close to Earth again until 2035


The Red Planet will be as close to Earth as it can until 2035 throughout the entire month of October. (J. Bell| NASA via AP)AP

Mars will be visible from Earth throughout the month of October as the planet is currently the closest it’s been to us in quite some time. Although this isn’t the only celestial marvel terrestrial dwellers can see this month, the rarity of its occurrence makes it worth the neck strains.

According to, both Earth and Mars align in orbit every two years, but the elliptical shape their orbits take causes this distance to shift dramatically. Plus, Earth and Mars aren’t even on the same plane, and the gravitational pull of other planets puts an even greater rift between the two. This year’s rift will be approximately 38.6 million miles long (a relatively short distance when compared to previous times) which will cause Mars to appear very clearly in the night sky.

Don’t think you’ll be able to look up when it gets dark out any time soon? That’s a shame—the next time Mars is estimated to be this close to Earth will be in 2035.

This week, Mars & Earth are as close to each other as we’ve seen in 20 years. Have a look — with its tipped axis and a cute little icecap. And, I double-checked, no canals.Thanks to my Princeton colleague Bob Vanderbei for sharing his stunning photo.

Don’t feel too glum, though—this isn’t even the closest Mars has been to Earth historically. NASA notes that the Mars was way closer back in 2003; the distance was the shortest that had been seen between the two in 60,000 years (and which won’t be seen again till 2287). Somehow, a 15-year wait doesn’t sound all too bad all of a sudden.

NASA also warns folks to beware of an email hoax that’s been circling around the Internet since that time. Apparently, someone sent out a spam message claiming that Mars will end up looking as big as the moon in the night sky during this time period. This, obviously, is untrue and should be ignored.

Be sure to look up any clear night in October to see the Red Planet shining bright.

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