At the last opposition, in 2018, Earth and Mars were just 58 million km apart, but what makes this occasion a little more special for astrophotographers in the Northern Hemisphere is the Red Planet’s elevation in the sky. It’s higher, and that means telescopes don’t have to look through quite so much of the Earth’s turbulent atmosphere, which distorts images.
Mars is at its biggest and brightest right now as the Red Planet lines up with Earth on the same side of the Sun.
Every 26 months, the pair take up this arrangement, moving close together, before then diverging again on their separate orbits around our star.
Tuesday night sees the actual moment of what astronomers call “opposition”.
All three bodies will be in a straight line at 23:20 GMT (00:20 BST).
“But you don’t have to wait until the middle of the night; even now, at nine or 10 o’clock in the evening, you’ll easily see it over in the southeast,” says astrophotographer, Damian Peach. “You can’t miss it, it’s the brightest star-like object in that part of the sky,” he told BBC News.
Even though this coming week witnesses the moment of opposition, it was Tuesday of last week that Mars and Earth actually made their closest approach in this 26-month cycle.