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Planets Colliding: What NASA Knows So Far...

First Posted: May 26, 2016 05:10 AM EDT

Earth's planetary neighbor, Mars will soon be in sight as the red planet is set to be in opposition, meaning the Sun and Mars will be on opposite sides of Earth, which will put it at its closest distance from our planet after more than a decade.

Oppositions happens about once every 26 months because Mars' orbit taking around twice as long as Earth's. Some are also better than others due to Mars' elliptical path versus Earth's more circular one. This just happens to collide with an opportunity to see Mars closely, gizmodo.com reported.

NASA said that the red planet will be 46.8 million miles away from the Earth, but compared to its usual position, it's considered to be a lot closer. While stargazers and Mars enthusiasts have this to look forward to, it also brings up a scary possibility that planets may be colliding in the future.

According to Clapway, Mars and Earth will get cozy starting May 30th until June 3rd. NASA also said that the red planet will appear both bigger and brighter to people on Earth. Telescopes or binoculars will not be needed to see the red planet since it will move closer to Earth than it has in 11 years. Interestingly, those who are not astronomically inclined will have an easier time recognizing it.

NASA also said that the best time to look for the planet is around midnight Eastern Time. Mars will be for the brightest object in the southeastern sky that seems to have a reddish tint to it. However, for those who won't be able to see Mars this month, NASA said there is still another time when Mars will appear clearer for humans to see up close. The space agency calculates that Earth and Mars will be even closer next year on July 31, 2018.

However, how close is too close though?

After computer simulations, a theory has been revealed that disturbance of planetary orbits could possibly lead to a collision of Earth with other planets like Mars, Venus or Mercury in the coming years. The probability of that happening is low, but even if a planet like Mars does not collide with Earth and does with something else, the results could still be a disaster.

A change in a planet's orbit like this could lead to total destabilization of the inner solar system in about 3.3. billion years. This may trigger other collisions as well. At present, planets' orbits may appear stable, however they are far from it and NASA predicts it will get even worse over the years.

So what exactly happens when two worlds collide? If it happens in our lifetime, we probably won't be able to do much observation. Thanks to the wonders of technology, we are able to roughly simulate what impact would look like.

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