Mad About Mars

This year, the Red Planet will come the closest to Earth it will be for the next 17 years, making it bigger and brighter than usual. Don’t miss the chance to see this spectacular sight!

Mars at Opposition Mad About Mars Science Fiction Movie Night

Both Earth and Mars follow elliptical (oval-shaped) orbits around the Sun. Because Earth is closer to the Sun than Mars, it speeds along its orbit more quickly than the Red Planet. We take two trips around the Sun in about the same time it takes Mars to take one! When Earth lines up directly between Mars and the Sun, we say that Mars is in opposition. This happens every two years or so, and this year will occur on 27 July. Mars perihelion is the point when the planet is closest to the Sun in its orbit. When this occurs within a few weeks of opposition, we get a perihelic opposition and Mars appears bigger and brighter than usual. These perihelic oppositions are not nearly as common, happening only every 17 years or so. The last one was in 2003 and the next chance to spot Mars this close won’t be until 2035. The closest approach will occur on 31 July.

However, viewing Mars during this exciting celestial event is not just restricted to the 27th or 31st of July…you will still catch superb views for about six weeks on either side of the date of opposition. Throughout July and August, Earth and our neighbour in space will only be around 58 million kilometres apart.

Don’t miss this opportunity to gaze through a telescope at our neighbour in space and catch the spectacular view of what may one day be humankind’s second home. It’s more than likely that by 2035, when the time the two planets are again this close, humans will have walked upon its surface!

We have a full ‘Mad About Mars’ line-up of events and resources to celebrate the two months of stellar Mars-gazing…. 

Viewing Opportunities

Zeiss Telescope Tours

Opposition Open Night

Science Fiction Movie Nights

Red Planet Mars

Robinson Crusoe on Mars

Resources and Information

New Zealand Astronomical Yearbook 2018 Article

Education Resource

Online Videos