I didn't take this picture; it's from the NSSDC website .
But I wanted to alert you to an upcoming/ongoing event. (Nancy M. sent me the following, after my post on the Perseids.)
The Red Planet is about to be spectacular! This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again.
The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. At a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.
Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m. By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30a.m.
That's pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month.
NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN
If that's not enough excitement for you, check out this really so-bad-that-it's good B-movie: Mars Needs Women
EEEK! I've just found out that the info about the close encounter is false! (See comment below) As always, it's good to check snopes.com -- but I didn't. Mea culpa.
I'm going to go stand in the corner for a while.