Mars zooms in for a close-up tonight … weather permitting

Mars is now the closest to Earth than it has been in 15 years

It's a little brighter, not only because it happens to be closer, but Mars is also at its "opposition" - directly opposite the sun as seen from Earth. That distinction belongs to Venus, which - at its closest orbital point - is just 23.6 million miles away, compared to Mars' closest pass at 35.7 million miles.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity posted a tweet Tuesday morning, saying Mars won't be this near again before 2035.

But, when and where can I see it?

Mars wasn't as big as the moon in the night sky - not even close; that story is a hoax that somehow pops up every single year.

Hopefully the cloudy weather forecast for Perth will still offer breaks in the sky for a good view.

This will be third and the last celestial treats - solar eclipse, lunar eclipse and brighter Mars - that were lined up in July.

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To get a glimpse of Mars, look to the southeast and fairly low in the sky - roughly 15 to 25 degrees upward, depending on how far north or south you live in the United States.

"We are encouraging a wide range of people to come up with innovative designs for how they envision a habitat on Mars", said Dr. Lex Akers, dean of the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology at Bradley University, NASA's partner in the challenge. The next close approach, meanwhile, in 2020, will be 38.6 million miles (62 million kilometers), according to NASA.

If you missed the peak at 1:00 a.m. ET today, don't worry; it will remain pretty close, providing great viewing opportunities until about the end of August.

While Mars is getting all the headlines in August, Jupiter and Saturn are also fantastic telescope targets, with Jupiter's moons and Saturn's ring system.

The Red Planet last made an approach this close in 2003 when it came within 34.6 million miles of Earth.

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Transforming planets as a pre-cursor to colonisation is a staple of science fiction, and an aspiration for individuals including Elon Musk, whose company SpaceX uses images of terraforming Mars in its promotional material.

Take a look at the night sky tonight, July 31, 2018.

The Hubble space telescope received the Saturn during opposition the planet Earth in June of this year, when conditions for observations were most favorable.

Mars has been appearing brighter than usual since July 27, but tonight is the planet's closest approach to Earth. Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory will provide a live online view of Mars early Tuesday.

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