For a good look at the Red Planet, it won’t get much better than tonight — at least for another nine years. In only a few hours, Mars will make its closest approach to Earth until 2016.
Earth made a similarly close passage of Mars in 2003, but tonight’s viewing could be better for astronomers. In 2003, Mars appeared along the horizon. Tonight, Mars will appear high in the sky, and only an estimated 55 million miles away.
While Mars will be closest tonight, viewing should be good through the end of December. Even amateurs with the most basic telescope should be able to see Mars’ icy poles and dark features.