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Illustration of the Earth and Mars in opposition - 27th August 2003
During opposition, Mars and the sun are on directly opposite sides of Earth. From our perspective on our spinning world, Mars rises in the east just as the sun sets in the west. Then, after staying up in the sky the entire night, Mars sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east. Since Mars and the sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that Mars is in "opposition."

Mars Closest Approach August 27 marks the closest that Mars and Earth have been since nearly 60,000 years ago, when the Neanderthals lived! Mars won't be this close again until 2287. Imagine what life on Earth...and maybe Mars...might be like then.

Mars Opposition The distance to Mars varies from about 56 million kilometers (about 35 million miles) to 400 million kilometers (about 249 million miles). Why the difference? And why so close now?

[Text stolen @ nasa]