The Moon and Mars Will Meet in Tonight’s Sky — Here’s How to Watch
Say farewell to Mars — temporarily— with tonight’s lunar occultation
On Monday night, stargazers in the southern U.S. down to northern South America can witness an awe-striking nighttime spectacle: the moon passing in front of Mars. The event, known as a lunar occultation, is only visible to a sliver of the planet. If you’re in the southern U.S., from Los Angeles to Miami — and you have clear skies — you’ll enjoy a front-row seat to the show.
Located up north? It’s still worth heading out. Those outside the path of the occultation can watch the moon and the red planet slide past each other; it’s visible with the naked eye, although binoculars or a telescope will make the experience even better, according to EarthSky.org.
Who can see this month’s lunar occultation of Mars?
Much of the southern U.S. lies within the zone of lunar occultation visibility, as does Mexico, Central America, and northern South America — think Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil. Check In-the-Sky’s occultation map to see if you’re in the viewing region.
Timing-wise, stargazers in Los Angeles can admire the occultation beginning at 8:35 p.m. local time, when Mars disappears behind the moon. The red planet will reappear at 9:29 p.m., according to Space.com. In Miami, Mars will disappear at 12:37 a.m. local time, then reappear at 1:27 a.m. Look to the west-northwest horizon to spot the occultation.
These destinations may provide prime occultation viewing, but they’re not the only way to get in on the interstellar fun. Just outside the occultation zone is the “graze path.” This 13-mile-wide ribbon of the U.S. will see Mars graze along the surface of the moon, slightly disappearing, then fully reappearing on the other side. Destinations in the graze path include Kanab, Utah, and Brunswick, Georgia.
From the northern U.S. into Canada, night-sky viewers can watch Mars nearly touch the moon as it travels above it.
Will I need a telescope to view the lunar occultation of Mars?
Given the moon's proximity to Mars, you’ll be able to view the phenomenon with a stargazing telescope. That said, the 74 percent illuminated waxing gibbous moon will make your field of view quite bright.
If you don’t have a telescope, grab a pair of stargazing binoculars to admire the show. You can see it with your naked eye, but the close-up makes it more dazzling.
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