Cozying up to Mars

The Hubble Space Telescope took this color-composite portrait of Mars on Aug. 26, just 11 hours before the Red Planet passed within 56 million kilometers of Earth, its closest approach in 59,619 years. The image, which shows Mars’ south polar ice cap (bottom) and the huge Hellas basin impact crater (circular feature below and right of center), is the sharpest global picture of the Red Planet ever taken from Earth’s vicinity.

NASA, J. Bell, M. Wolff

Mars and Earth approach each other unusually closely about every 17 years, but the two orbs won’t reach last week’s proximity again until 2287. Through September, Mars will rise in the southeast at sunset and set in the southwest at dawn. Luminous in the night sky, the planet resembles a butterscotch-colored star that doesn’t twinkle.


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