Watch Mars at Opposition Meet the Full Moon Next Week (December 7)
Occasionally something appears in the sky that catches the attention of even those who don’t normally bother to look up.
It is likely in the evening hours of Wednesday (Dec. 7) when the full moon will appear very close to the now brilliant moon planet Mars. In fact, the Moon will become full at 11:08 PM EST (0408 GMT on December 8), followed by Mars arriving in opposition to the Sun just 87 minutes later. This will result in an almost perfect alignment in space the sunSoil, Moon and Mars.
People who don’t know or don’t know ahead of time will almost certainly wonder, if they take a cursory glance at our closest neighbor in space on this first Wednesday in December, what exactly is that “bright orange-yellow light”? Sometimes such occasions bring a sudden surge of calls to radio and television stations, local planetariums, weather and police stations. Not a few of these calls excitedly inquire about “the mysterious UFO” hovering close to our natural satellite!
If you don’t live in one of the locations below where you have a good chance of seeing the event in person, you’re in luck: The Virtual Telescope Project is hosting a live stream of Mars in opposition (opens in new tab) starting at 11:00 PM EST on December 7 (0400 GMT on December 8).
Joe Rao is an accomplished meteorologist and eclipse hunter who also serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium.
Where the moon eclipses Mars
As a bonus, those located north and west of a line roughly running from Piedras Negras, Mexico to Louisville, Kentucky to Seabrook, New Hampshire, will see the moon occult Mars. Refer to the US map. However, those south and east of this line will see the moon completely miss the planet and barely pass just above it (called an appulse).
But to an observer who happens to be positioned right on or right next to that line — it’s actually a narrow path about 21 miles (34 km) wide — it looks like the moon’s lower limb is literally skimming past Mars.
To those who happen to be along the northern edge of the path, the planet’s dazzling topaz disk may seem to vanish completely, then reappear intermittently in lunar valleys. In contrast, at the southern edge of the path, the northern edge of Mars will only briefly touch the moon’s edge.
Among the towns and cities located within the trail are Morgantown, WV; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Hudson, NY; Northampton, MA; Lowell, MA and Seabrook, NH. Please refer to the Mars occultation grass path maps.
Unlike a star which is a point of light and would disappear and reappear in an instant, Mars appears as a small disk in telescopes; due to its relatively large angular size (17.2 arcseconds in diameter), occultation will occur at a rather “quiet” rate. So the disappearance of Mars behind the Moon’s bright limb will last about 40 seconds to nearly a minute in most places (or even longer when the Moon’s limb approaches it at an angle).
From Austin, for example, the moon’s slow eastward drift will take more than two minutes to completely cover and later expose the planet’s disk — and even longer for those to the south and closer to the grazing path’s northern boundary. , where the moon’s limb will approach even more obliquely.
The return of the planet will also be gradual. The actual term is called an eclipse (Latin for “hide”). One could even refer to this upcoming event as an eclipse of the planet Mars. Moving eastward every hour against the background stars of its own apparent diameter, the moon will appear to approach Mars from the west (right) and eventually pass in front of it, only to expose it soon after and leave it behind when the moon stays move east.
Clearly visible with only your eyes
A chance to see the moon eclipsing a bright planet at night doesn’t come around often; for Mars for a specific location on Earth, it happens (on average) once every 14 years. So if you’re lucky enough to live in the occultation zone and the weather gods are cooperating, this upcoming event is one not to be missed.
Since Mars will be in opposition when it has its lunar appointment, it will shine at its very brightest for this current apparition. Normally, even a bright star can be quite difficult to see when it’s so close to the dazzling glare of a full moon. But because Mars is as bright as it is (magnitude -1.9; almost twice as bright as Sirius, its brightest star), this spectacular disappearing act can only be viewed with the naked eye or binoculars, although the very best views are certainly will be. equipped with a telescope.
Table 1 provides the specific details for 27 selected cities in the United States and Canada. For times with an asterisk
|Table 1: Local viewing conditions for the Martian eclipse, December 7-8, 2022||Place||Time zone||Mars disappears|
|Mars reappears||Juneau||ACST||6:19 pm|
|6:55 pm||The Angels||PST||6:30 pm|
|7:30 PM||San Francisco||PST||6:34 pm|
|7:35 pm||Seattle||PST||6:51 pm|
|7:50 PM||Vancouver||PST||6:55 pm|
|7:52 PM||Tucson||MST||7:32 PM|
|8:27 pm||Vegas||MST||7:34 PM|
|8:35 pm||Salt Lake City||MST||7:41 PM|
|8:46 pm||Deventer||MST||7:44 PM|
|8:48 PM||Helena||MST||7:51 pm|
|8:56 pm||Edmonton||MST||8:04 pm|
|9:06 PM||Yellow knife||MST||8:23 pm|
|9:16 PM||White horse||MST||8:25 pm|
|8:57 pm||tulsa||CST||8:54 pm|
|9:41 PM||Kansas City||CST||8:56 pm|
|9:52 PM||Austin||CST||8:57 pm|
|9:12 PM||Saskatoon||CST||9:03 PM|
|10:10 PM||winnipeg||CST||9:05 PM|
|10:16 PM||Chicago||CST||9:10 PM|
|10:04 am||Memphis||CST||9:14 PM|
|9:29 PM||Churchill||CST||9:22 pm|
|10:31 PM||Louisville||IS||10:21 PM|
|10:47 PM||Toronto||IS||10:29 PM|
|11:17 PM||Montreal||IS||10:40 PM|
|11:29 PM||Quebec City||IS||10:45 PM|
|11:36 PM||Halifax||AST||00:15 am*|
|00:33 am*||Gander||NST||00:47 am*|
The table above gives civil times of the disappearance and reappearance of Mars from behind the moon. Both the planet’s disappearance and reappearance can last anywhere from 40 seconds to more than two minutes, depending on whether Mars passes centrally behind the moon (and is obscured for an hour or more) or near its lower edge oblique (and is less than covered for half an hour). Vanishing and reappearing times are for the center of Mars. The table has been modified based on data provided by the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA)(opens in new tab)
(Image credit: Starry Night Software)
Don’t miss this near miss! For the rest of North America, this will be an extraordinarily close approach from the Moon to Mars (called anlanded
). The moon, which moves eastward around Earth every hour by about its own diameter, appears to slowly creep toward the ocher planet, eventually passing just above the ocher planet. Even though the densely populated Southeastern and Eastern United States will miss an occultation, Mars will almost command people to look at it as it appears to slowly slide under the moon.
For places like Huntsville, Knoxville, Philadelphia, and New York, Mars will come within just 1 arc minute of the moon’s edge; they seem to almost touch. To the naked eye, Mars looks like an amber jewel on the underside of the moon. From Boston, the gap between Mars and the moon’s edge is even smaller: just 0.6 arcminute, roughly equivalent to the apparent width of two Martian diameters!
After closest approach, the moon will slowly move away from Mars for the remainder of the nighttime hours of December 7 and December 8.
|Swipe to scroll horizontally||Table 2: Local viewing conditions for the apple of the moon and mars, 7 dec. and 8 Dec. 2022||Place||Time zone|
|Closest approach||Parting||New Orleans||IS|
|9:11 pm||3 arc min.||Huntsville||IS|
|9:23 pm||1 bow min.||Miami||IS|
|10:16 PM||11 arc min.||Jacksonville||IS|
|10:23 PM||7 arc min.||Atlanta||IS|
|10:26 PM||3 arc min.||Colombia||IS|
|10:31 PM||4 arc min.||Knoxville||IS|
|10:31 PM||1 bow min.||Charlotte||IS|
|10:36 PM||3 arc min.||Norfolk||IS|
|10:46 PM||4 arc min.||Washington||IS|
|10:46 PM||2 arc min.||Philadelphia||IS|
|10:51 PM||1 bow min.||New York||IS|
|10:56 PM||1 bow min.||Boston||IS|
|11:01 PM||0.6 arc min.||San Juan||AST|
|11:51 PM||23 arc min.||Hamilton||AST|
11 arc min.
The above table shows civil times (all am) from the closest approach of Mars to the edge of the moon’s lower limb. The separation between Mars and the underside of the moon is shown in minutes of arc (the apparent latitude of the moon on December 7 is 30 minutes of arc).
Example: From Jacksonville, the closest approach is 10:23 PM EST, the distance is shown at 7 minutes of arc or fractionally, about 1/4 of the width of the moon will separate Mars from the bottom of the moon.
Europe too! And after 2022, your next chance
Europeans will also be able to participate in this occultation, although for them this event will occur during the early morning hours of Thursday (Dec. 8) with the moon descending across the west-northwestern sky. For Lisbon, Mars will disappear behind the moon at 4:28 a.m. local time and reappear at 5:02 a.m. For Dublin it is 4:55 am and 5:56 am London: 5:00 am and 5:59 am Berlin: 6:01 am and 6:56 am Paris: 6:04 am and 7:02 am, and Madrid 6 :9 p.m. and 7:07 a.m The next favorable eclipse of Mars for North America will occur on January 14, 2025 at around 4 a.m. UT. The moon will be full in about 6 hours. Mars enters opposition just two days later. Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer in New YorkHayden Planetarium (opens in new tab) . He prescribes about astronomyNatural History Magazine (opens in new tab) the Farmers Almanac (opens in new tab) and other publications. follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and furtherFacebook
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