Why Mars Looks Brighter Right Now
From July 7 to September 7, the Earth will pass between the sun and Mars in perihelic opposition which is why Mars will appear brighter to your eye. It might look to your eyes like a red star - the red is how you know you are seeing Mars. July 31 is the day Mars will be closest to us, so it should be brightest toward the end of this month.
The last time Mars was this bright was 2003, and it won't happen again for another 15-17 years because of the orbits Earth and Mars travel. There are two things at play here: opposition and perihelion. Perihelion refers to Mars closest location to the sun (and to Earth since Earth orbits between the two objects). Perihelion comes only a few days after Mars opposition this year. The Earth takes one year to orbit the sun and Mars takes about two years, so opposition happens roughly every 2 years. That's when Earth passes Mars along their orbital paths. This combination (perihelic opposition) only happens every 15-17 years since Earth and Mars have to be lined up when Mars reaches perihelion. Sometimes when this happens, Earth and Mars come closer to each other than at other times. That's was 2003 was so bright; Mars was closer to us than it's ever been. It will be slightly farther away this year, making this the second brightest. You will be able to see the Red Planet with your eyes alone; look southeast early in the evening to see it.
If you take any pictures of the red planet - or just try to view it - let me know using the links below!