Coming this November: National Astronomy Week to mark best view of Mars until 2033

Mars in 2018
Hubble Space Telescope image of Mars at close approach to the Earth in 2018.

A National Astronomy Week (NAW) will be held in the UK from Saturday 14 November to Sunday 22 November 2020. The aim of the week is to celebrate the close approach of Mars, and to give members of the public the chance to see the red planet in closeup through a telescope. NAW 2020 is supported by the major UK astronomical organisations, and is supported by the Royal Astronomical Society as part of its bicentenary celebrations.

Amateur and professional astronomers around the country will be holding observing events during the week. Seen through a telescope magnifying about 100 times, Mars will appear as a pale orange disc, with its markings clearly visible, at a distance of 80 million km.

Although Mars is at its closest to Earth a month earlier, at that time it is only high enough in the sky to be viewed quite late in the evening. By November it is well up in the sky during the early evening, allowing younger schoolchildren a unique opportunity to get a good view of the planet. It will not be as close again until 2033. And on that occasion, it will be very low in the sky as seen from the UK.

“We are excited that National Astronomy Week will give thousands of children and their parents the chance to see Mars in closeup” said Lucinda Offer, chair of the National Astronomy Week steering committee, Executive Director of the Mars Society and Education and Outreach Officer for the Royal Astronomical Society. “Several space missions are being launched towards the planet this year and we are looking forward to getting some amazing results.”

British scientists are among those who are involved in experiments aboard spacecraft, in particular ESA’s ExoMars mission to put a rover - named Rosalind Franklin - on the planet next year.

As well as Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon will be on show during National Astronomy Week. Details of observing events will be posted on the NAW website. During the last NAW, over 200 events were organised around the UK reaching an estimated 25,000 people, and the organisers are calling upon astronomical societies, observatories and university departments to arrange even more events this time.

Media contacts

Lucinda Offer
Chair, National Astronomy Week steering committee
Mob: +44 (0)788 922 6543

Robin Scagell
National Astronomy Week steering committee

Notes for editors

National Astronomy Week (NAW 2020)

This will be the eighth NAW. The first, held in 1981, celebrated the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Uranus from Bath by William Herschel. Others have celebrated Halley’s Comet in 1986, the very close approach of Mars in 2003, and the 400th anniversary of the first astronomical use of the telescope by English observer Thomas Harriot in 1609.

The week is supported by leading UK astronomical groups and organisations including:

Royal Astronomical Society
Association for Science and Discovery Centres
Astronomy Now
British Astronomical Association
British Association of Planetaria
Federation of Astronomical Societies
Observatory Science Centre
Society for Popular Astronomy

For more information about the event please see the NAW 2020 home page.

To contact the NAW organisers please email

Follow NAW 2020 on Twitter and Facebook


Submitted by Robert Massey on Fri, 31/01/2020 - 12:18