Mars made its closest pass by Earth this morning, about 35,800,000 miles away. According to NASA, Mars can get as close as about 34 million miles away, but that does not happen often.
Our weather is not going to be ideal to see Mars tonight, but a broken sky will probably give you a decent view. Look south for the bright red dot in the sky.
If not, the distance is not going to be largely different when the skies do start to clear at night later this week.
How close is Mars really to Earth right now?
At 35.8 million miles, when you see the light from the red planet, it happened about 3 minutes ago!
Yes, let that sink in, at the speed of light, about 186,200 miles per second, it would take that light about 190 seconds for that light to travel here.
- That’s as close as 126,000 round trips from Columbus to Cleveland
- About as close as 6400 round trips from New York to L.A.
- Just as far at 1437 trips around the Earth as the equator
- Mars is as close to Earth as driving 651,000 times around the outerbelt (I-270)
651,000 times around the outerbelt!
Think about this, if you started driving tonight on the outerbelt, and NEVER stopped at all for anything, at highway speed of 70 miles per hour, it you would complete the 35.8 million mile trip right before Christmas. Well, Christmas of 2076!!!
So yes, while Mars is quite close to Earth right now, it is still far.
Mars distance to Earth varies a lot
Because both planets do not have perfectly circular orbits around the Sun, the distance between the two planets can change from 34 million miles to about 250 million miles. So really, our ~36 million mile pass is quite close.
We had a closer pass 15 years ago, according to NASA that was at about 34.6 million miles, something they say hasn’t happened in nearly 60,000 years. They will not get this close again for anyone reading this right now.
The next close pass will come in just 2 years in 2020, when the Earth and Mars will be about 38.6 million miles away from each other
If you have any questions about planets, science or any weather questions, email me, firstname.lastname@example.org