Perth stargazers in for treat as Mars gets close to Earth

Stock image.
Stock image.

PERTH stargazers are in for a rare treat tonight, with Mars closer to Earth than it has been for 15 years.

The red planet has been visible to the naked eye for a few days, but it will be at its brightest tonight.

Earth makes two orbits of the Sun for every one Mars makes, but there are occasions when the two planets are very close together.

Every 15 to 17 years, the planets are in ‘perihelion opposition’ – meaning they are at their closest points to the sun, and to each other.

Dr Katarina Miljkovic, of Curtin University’s¬†School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said Mars would be visible to the naked eye once it gets dark tonight.

“You can see Mars pretty much most of the night,” Dr Miljkovic said.

“You’ll be able to see Mars from when the sun goes down, and peak Mars will be around midnight.

“Just look up and watch for a bright red, non-blinking star – I don’t want to say star – but it looks like a star.

“It doesn’t blink, all stars blink and planets don’t blink. And it’s red – it’s very easily distinguishable in the sky.

“For amateur astronomers, if you get a small telescope out, you can see Mars in high detail.”

Mars is a particular area of interest for Dr Miljkovic, and she said she is looking forward to tonight’s show.

“I like looking up in the sky – it inspires me and reminds me often why I do this job,” she said.