Thousands watch skies for glimpse of Mars

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The Independent Online

Stargazers lucky enough to be in a part of Britain without any clouds last night witnessed the closest approach of the planet Mars for 60,000 years. At about midnight, Mars appeared as the brightest object in the sky over the southern horizon. It was about 4,000 times brighter than the faintest star the naked eye can see.

Stargazers lucky enough to be in a part of Britain without any clouds last night witnessed the closest approach of the planet Mars for 60,000 years. At about midnight, Mars appeared as the brightest object in the sky over the southern horizon. It was about 4,000 times brighter than the faintest star the naked eye can see.

The planet is getting closer to Earth and its closest approach comes at 10.51am today when the two planets are 56 million km (35 million miles) apart. Daylight will obscure a sight that last occurred when Neanderthals lived on Earth. Amateur astronomers able to train their telescopes on Mars last night were hoping to gain a clear view of the planet's ice-covered poles.

However, the spectacle was threatened by possible dust storms that can rage over the whole planet when Mars is this close to the Sun.

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