On July 27th, 2018, the Red planet will be almost direct opposite with the Sun in the sky. At midnight, the Sun would reach its maximum distance just below the horizon. At just opposite of the Sky, the maximum point would also be met. Coincidentally, a Total Lunar Blood Moon Eclipse will occur on this night (with totality visible specifically across the Eastern hemisphere).
Mars will pass by the opposition point–the point highest in the sky opposite the Sun’s greatest distance at horizon point–shining brighter while being closest to Earth by distance (35.8 million miles (57.6 million km) ) on July 31st. When Mars passes opposition and approaches perigee (closest distance to Earth) it becomes brighter, and thus, the best time to visually observe and even photograph the Red planet. On opposition night, Mars will be visible between 18:50hrs to 05:15hrs. At 18:50hrs, look 7° above the south-eastern horizon. At 00:05hrs, look 57° above the southern horizon to observe its highest point in the Sky, the best moment for observation. The entire event will wrap up about 05:15hrs when Mars falls 8° below the south-western horizon. Mars will be bright (with a magnitude of approximately -2.8) from July 27th to August 3rd.
Any decent telescope will be able to observe Mars, and be able to see traces of the planet’s surface detail, such as a 70mm refractor telescope. However, to best observe the Martian surface, a large aperture telescope (4 inches and up), with a long focal length (f/8 minimum), is advised.
Best photography results will come from utilizing specially designed planetary cameras with the proper gear such as a sturdy tripod with the suitable telescope. Taking short video clippings of the planet as it crosses the field of view of the telescope can produce surprising results in post-processing. A freeware utility called Autostakkert! is great for processing planetary captures and creating still frames.
However you decide to commemorate this grandiose occasion, enjoy it in its entirety with friends, family or in your moment of solitude. Cheers to clear skies on that day!
-Featured image credit: Ferlin Pedro, taken from Ogle, E.C.D. Guyana, S.A, 2016