Saturn, Mars Set to Make Their Closest Approaches to Earth in 2018


From the outside in are the A ring with the Encke Gap, the Cassini Division, the B ring, and the C ring with the Maxwell Gap. With this feature, you can switch between a heliocentric view, where the sun is in the center, and a geocentric view, where Earth is in the center. This is the point in which Earth is sandwiched directly in the middle of the sun and Mars.

"In this case it's going to appear about five times brighter than usual", added Kelly.

Saturn orbited some 870 million miles away, while in opposition to Earth on June 27. It was believed that because of this the existence of it as a liquid on the surface of the red planet unrealistic.

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On Mars, a dust storm erupted in the southern hemisphere and ballooned into a global dust storm enshrouding the entire planet. This may be responsible for a string of bright clouds visible near the northern polar region that are the remnants of a disintegrating storm. At the ringed-planet's north pole, Hubble identified a hexagonal pattern first spotted 37 years ago during a flyby from Voyager 1. Scientists believe the water is kept in liquid form by a salty brine that Orosei and colleagues speculatively describe as a "sludge".

Scroll down to see an animation of Saturn and its moons, created from Hubble imagery collected over the course of 20 hours.

This year marks what astronomers call a perihelic opposition of Mars, meaning Earth comes between the sun and the Mars when Mars is at its closest distance to the sun.

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That means, sometimes, Mars is closer to Earth than at other times - and, closer to the Sun.

It is the largest body of liquid water ever found on the Red Planet. Still visible are the white polar caps, Terra Meridiani, the Schiaparelli Crater, and Hellas Basin - but all of these features are slightly blurred by the dust in the atmosphere.

The discovery was made using a radar instrument on board the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, which launched in 2003. This was the closest the two planets had come to each other in nearly 60,000 years, and this record will not be broken until August 28, 2287. Leaving aside any significance this might have for astrologers, from an astronomical point of view there's one thing you can say for sure about this Mars opposition: Mars will be brighter in the night sky than it's been for 15 years.

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