This time of year all of us who live in New York quietly bite our lips and try to push through the crowds of tourists who come to enjoy the holiday season with us. Here's another reason the city sucks this week: The light here prevents us from seeing the night sky well, thus depriving us of a close encounter with the Mars. This week, the Earth's orbit will bring it the closer to the red planet than it has for many years; the next best viewing won't come again until 2016.
All of you astro-photographers who celebrate the holidays in less populated areas may want to take advantage of this chance for some heavenly drive-by shooting, as it were. Mars will appear as a bright, yellowish-orange star just above the constellation Gemini.
Scientists say that the orbital paths of Mars and Earth are bringing the planets a mere 55 million miles apart this week. In 2003 the planets came within 53 million miles apart—the closest they'd been since Neanderthals roamed our world.