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Earth and Mars Close Encounter

star map
Star Chart showing Mars (large red circle with symbol) rising, 20 August 2005 at 7AM UTC (midnight Arizona time).

Image Credit: Your Sky
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Earth is racing toward Mars at a speed of 23,500 mph, which means the red planet is getting bigger and brighter by the minute. In October, when the two planets are closest together, Mars will outshine everything in the night sky except Venus and the Moon. Because of the close proximity of Earth and Mars, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) launch was planned for August 2006. Because it takes six or more months to reach Mars, the best time to start the trip is a month or so before closest approach--thus, August. MRO, launched August 12, will arrive at Mars in March 2006 after a seven month journey, enter orbit, and begin a two year mission to map the red planet in greater detail than ever before.

More: Science@NASA - Approaching Mars

Link: NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Link: Your Sky - Make your own star chart!