On Tuesday, the red planet will come the closest to Earth that it will be until 2035, NASA reported — but that distance is rather relative as the planets will be a whopping 38.6 million miles away from each other.
Known as the Mars Close Approach, this event happens every two years and follows Mars and Earth — which are normally at least 33.9 million miles away — as they come closer to and farther away from each other in their elliptical orbits around the sun, according to the space agency.
When Mars, Earth and the sun become aligned, the red planet will be “visible for much of the night in the southern sky and is at its highest point at about midnight,” NASA wrote.
Mars will also appear “very bright” in Earth’s sky, according to NASA, making it “easier to see with telescopes or the naked eye” and providing “exceptional viewing” that only comes around once every 15-17 years.
“Simply go outside and look up and, depending on your local weather and lighting conditions, you should be able to see Mars,” NASA wrote. “…Mars is at its brightest, so go out and take a look!”
Though the Close Approach is a biennial event, the distance between Mars and Earth routinely wavers due to the planets’ elliptical and slightly-tilted paths and gravitational tug, according to NASA.
In a graph by Forbes, this trend appears like a wave, illustrating how the distance between the planets increases or decreases every two years, and they ultimately change their upward or downward direction every seven to nine years.
To date, the closet Mars has ever been to Earth was in 2003 at 34.7 million miles away, Forbes previously reported. That milestone became the nearest the two planets had been to each other in 60,000 years.
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