Mars opposition and blood moon lunar eclipse: look to the skies for a rare celestial event

July 27, 2018

Stargazers are in for a rare celestial treat when a Mars opposition - when the red planet is at its closest point to Earth - coincides with a blood moon lunar eclipse. It’s a timely event: Mars has been in the news this week with reports that it might have a lake of water.

From July 27 to July 31, Mars will be nearer to Earth than it’s been in 15 years. Its closest point is on July 31 when it will be 57.6 million kilometres from Earth, making it the ideal time to see the planet.

The dance of the planets

Mars years are about 1.88 times longer than Earth years - Mars takes 687 days to orbit the sun - a reason why the opposition with Earth happens about every two years. Other conditions also define how near or far the two planets are.

The last time the red planet was so close to Earth was in 2003. The next time Mars is scheduled to make a similar approach is on October 6, 2020, when it will be 62.07 million kilometres from the Earth.

Where to see Mars

During this time, and under a clear sky, Mars will be easily visible to the unaided eye. You can watch the incredible astronomical event online or live - just look up. Mars has been extra bright all month, and will remain that way for about a month after the opposition. It will then fade back to its normal glow as it gets further from Earth.

Use the menu to find out the best place to see the celestial event near you.


The lunar eclipse will turn the moon red in this city

Horizon line

Both the moon and Mars will be under the horizon line at this time

Size comparison of the planets in different months as seen through a telescope

Mars missions have taken advantage of the close distance between the two planets.

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