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Mars Making Closest Approach to Earth in 11 Years

This computer-generated view depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater beginning to catch morning light, in this handout image provided by NASA.

Astronomy buffs across much of the globe awaited darkness Monday for a glimpse of Mars, as the Red Planet makes its closest approach to Earth in 11 years.

The event, visible to the naked eye, will occur at 21:34 UTC Monday, when the second-smallest planet in the solar system passes within 76 million kilometers of Earth. Scientists say it will remain roughly at that distance through June 12.

The close encounter is known as "close approach," an event marked by Mars and Earth coming nearest each other in their orbits around the sun.

NASA says the next close encounter will occur July 31, 2018, when Mars will be about 57 million kilometers away.

In a statement earlier this month, the U.S.-based website Sky and Telescope urged star gazers on May 30 to look low in the southeast sky at the end of twilight, "and you can't miss it," said senior editor Alan MacRobert. "Mars looks almost scary now, compared to how it normally looks in the sky," he said.


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