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Mars closest to Earth in over a decade on Monday 30 May

On Bank Holiday Monday, be prepared for a celestial surprise as a planetary body sidles up next to us - or at least 46 million miles away.

Mars will be the closest it has been to Earth since 2005, meaning academics and amateurs alike can get a rare, bright close-up of our dusty red neighbour in the night sky.

On Monday, at 9.35pm, the alien world will be just 46,762,695 miles (75,279,709 km) from us as it continues its 687-day elliptical orbit around the Sun.

In Leicester, Professor of Planetary Science John Bridges, of the University’s Space Research Centre, will also be keeping a close eye on the distant world - which he has invested so much of his time in.

Professor Bridges is part of the NASA team gathering data sent back by the Mars Science Laboratory - more affectionately called, Curiosity.

He is also a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) mission, ExoMars.

Professor Mark Sims, Interim Director of the University’s Space Research Centre, said that the Red Planet has been the focus of our fascination since it was first imaged with a telescope by a Dutch astronomer Christian Huygens, in 1659. 

But even today, he says, the planet holds mysteries that are still unsolved.

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