Every now and then, something will appear in the sky that will catch the attention of even those who don’t bother looking.
It will likely be like this in the evening hours of Wednesday (December 7) when the full moon appears very close to the now bright star Mars. In fact, the Moon will become full at 11:08 PM EDT (0408 GMT on Dec. 8) followed by Mars reaching opposition to the Sun just 87 minutes later. This will lead to near perfect alignment in space of the Sun, Earth, Moon and Mars.
People, unaware or without prior notice, will almost certainly wonder, glancing at our nearest neighbor in space on the first Wednesday in December, what is this “bright orange light”? Occasionally, such occasions bring a sudden series of phone calls to radio and television stations, local planetariums, meteorological offices and police stations. Not a few of these calls excitedly inquire about the “mysterious UFO” hovering near our natural satellite!
If you don’t live in any of the locations listed below that would provide a good opportunity to witness the event in person, you’re in luck: The Virtual Telescope Project will be hosting a live broadcast of Mars in opposition (Opens in a new tab) It begins at 11:00 PM EST on December 7 (0400 GMT on December 8).
Related: December 2022 Full Moon: The cold moon obscures Mars
Joe Rao is a veteran meteorologist and eclipse chaser who also serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium.
Where do you see the moon eclipsing Mars
As a bonus, those north and west of a line that runs roughly from Piedras Negras, Mexico to Louisville, Kentucky to Seabrook, New Hampshire will see Mars’ hidden moon. Refer to the US map. However, those positioned south and east of this line will see the moon completely miss the planet, just barely passing over it (called euphoria).
But to an observer fortuitously positioned exactly on this line, or right next to it—it’s actually a narrow path about 21 miles (34 km) wide—the moon’s lower limb will appear to be grazing Mars as it passes.
For those serendipitously located along the path’s northern edge, the planet’s dazzling disk of topaz may appear to disappear completely, then sporadically reappear in lunar valleys. In contrast, along the path’s southern edge, Mars’ northern edge will only touch the moon’s tip briefly.
Among the towns and cities within the trail are Morgantown, WV; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Hudson, New York; Northampton, Massachusetts; Lowell, Massachusetts and Seabrook, New Hampshire. See maps of the grazing path of Mars.
Unlike a star that is a tiny point of light and disappears and reappears in an instant, Mars appears as a small disk in telescopes. Due to its relatively large angular size (17.2 arcseconds in diameter), invisibility will occur at a fairly “relaxing” pace. So for Mars to disappear behind the moon’s bright tip in most places, it would take about 40 seconds to a minute (or even longer as the moon’s tip approaches it at inclination).
From Austin, for example, the moon’s slow eastward drift will take more than two minutes to completely cover, later revealing the planet’s disk—and even longer for those further south and closer to the northern boundary of the grazing path, where the moon’s tip will approach more than a mile away.
The emergence of the planet will also be gradual. The actual term is called hide (Latin for “hide”). One might refer to this upcoming event as an eclipse of Mars. Moving east against the background of the stars at their apparent hourly diameter, the Moon will appear to approach Mars from the west (right) and eventually pass in front of it, then shortly thereafter spot it and leave it behind. The moon continues to move east.
Clearly visible with your eyes only
The chance to see the moon obscuring a bright planet at night doesn’t happen often; For Mars for a given location on Earth, this happens (on average) about once every 14 years. So, if you are fortunate enough to live in an occultation zone and have the weather gods cooperate, this upcoming event is truly one not to be missed.
Since Mars will be in opposition when its lunar appointment is, it will be very bright in this current apparition. Normally, even a bright star can be hard to see when it’s so close to the dazzling brilliance of a full moon. However, because Mars is as bright as it is (magnitude -1.9; nearly twice as bright as Sirius, the brightest star), this spectacular fading can only be seen with the naked eye or binoculars, although the best views would certainly be. Equipped with binoculars.
Table 1 presents the specific details for 27 selected cities in the United States and Canada. For times marked with an asterisk
|Table 1: Local viewing conditions for the occultation of Mars, December 7-8, 2022||Site||time unit||Mars disappears|
|Mars reappears||Juno||ACST||6:19 p.m|
|6:55 p.m||Angels||PST||6:30 p.m|
|7:30 p.m||San Francisco||PST||6:34 p.m|
|7:35 p.m||Seattle||PST||6:51 p.m|
|7:50 p.m||Vancouver||PST||6:55 p.m|
|7:52 p.m||Tucson||MST||7:32 p.m|
|8:27 p.m||Las vigas||MST||7:34 p.m|
|8:35 p.m||Salt Lake City||MST||7:41 p.m|
|8:46 p.m||Denver||MST||7:44 p.m|
|8:48 p.m||Helena||MST||7:51 p.m|
|8:56 p.m||Edmonton||MST||8:04 p.m|
|9:06 p.m||Yellowknife||MST||8:23 p.m|
|9:16 p.m||White horse||MST||8:25 p.m|
|8:57 p.m||Tulsa||CST||8:54 p.m|
|9:41 p.m||Kansas City||CST||8:56 p.m|
|9:52 p.m||Austin||CST||8:57 p.m|
|9:12 p.m||Saskatoon||CST||9:03 p.m|
|10:10 p.m||Winnipeg||CST||9:05 p.m|
|10:16 p.m||Chicago||CST||9:10 p.m|
|10:04 a.m||Memphis||CST||9:14 p.m|
|9:29 p.m||Churchill||CST||9:22 p.m|
|10:31 p.m||Louisville||he is||10:21 p.m|
|10:47 p.m||Toronto||he is||10:29 p.m|
|11:17 p.m||Montreal||he is||10:40 p.m|
|11:29 p.m||Quebec City||he is||10:45 p.m|
|11:36 p.m||Halifax||ast||12:15 AM*|
|12:33 AM *||Mutt||NST||12:47 am *|
1:37 AM *
The above table shows the civil times for the disappearance of Mars and the appearance of it from behind the Moon. Both the disappearance and reappearance of a planet can last anywhere from 40 seconds to more than 2 minutes, depending on whether Mars passes centrally behind the Moon (and is covered for an hour or more) or near the lower edge at declination (which is covered for less than half an hour). The times of disappearance and appearance of the center of Mars. The table has been adapted from the data previously presented International Timing of Absence Association (IOTA)(Opens in a new tab)
(Image credit: Starry Night Software)
Don’t miss this near miss! For the rest of North America, this will be an extremely close approach of the Moon to Mars (calledreal estate
). The moon, moving around the Earth in an easterly direction with an approximate diameter per hour, seems to slowly creep toward the planet Ocher and eventually pass over the Planet Ocher. Although the densely populated southeastern and eastern United States will miss it unseen, Mars will almost ask people to look at it, as it appears to slowly slide beneath the moon.
For places like Huntsville, Knoxville, Philadelphia, and New York, Mars will come within one arc minute of the Moon’s limb; It will look like they are almost touching each other. To the naked eye, Mars will look like an amber gem on the moon’s lower edge. From Boston, the gap between Mars and the Moon’s limbs is even smaller: only 0.6 arcminutes, roughly equal to the apparent width of the diagonals of Mars!
After its closest approach, the Moon will slowly move away from Mars during the nighttime hours of December 7 and December 8.
|Drag to scroll horizontally||Table 2: Local viewing conditions for the gravitational pull of the Moon and Mars, December 7 and December 8, 2022||Site||time unit|
|closest approach||Separation||New Orleans||he is|
|9:11 p.m||3 arc minutes.||Huntsville||he is|
|9:23 p.m||1 arc minute.||Miami||he is|
|10:16 p.m||11 arc minutes.||jacksonville||he is|
|10:23 p.m||7 arc minutes.||Atlanta||he is|
|10:26 p.m||3 arc minutes.||Colombia||he is|
|10:31 p.m||4 arc minutes.||Knoxville||he is|
|10:31 p.m||1 arc minute.||Charlotte||he is|
|10:36 p.m||3 arc minutes.||Norfolk||he is|
|10:46 p.m||4 arc minutes.||Washington||he is|
|10:46 p.m||2 arc minutes.||Philadelphia||he is|
|10:51 p.m||1 arc minute.||New York||he is|
|10:56 p.m||1 arc minute.||Boston||he is|
|11:01 PM||0.6 arc min.||San Juan||ast|
|11:51 p.m||23 arc minutes.||Hamilton||ast|
12:06 am *
11 arc minutes.
The above table shows the civil times (all morning) of Mars’ closest approach to the lunar lower limb. The separation between Mars and the lower edge of the Moon is given in terms of arcminutes (the apparent width of the Moon on December 7 is 30 arcminutes).
Example: From Jacksonville, closest approach is 10:23 PM EST, the terminator is listed as when 7 arc minutes or roughly 1/4 of a moon’s width will separate Mars from the lower edge 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 happen during the early morning hours of Thursday (December 8) as the moon descends in the western-northwest sky. For Lisbon, Mars will disappear behind the Moon at 4:28 AM local time and reappear at 5:02 AM For Dublin, 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, Madrid 6:21 AM and 7:07 AM The next proper occultation of Mars will occur in North America on January 14, 2025. at approximately 4 hours UTC. The moon will be a waning hump about 6 hours after full. Mars appeared in opposition just two days later. Joe Rao is a teacher and guest lecturer in New YorkHayden Planetarium (Opens in a new tab) . He writes about astronomy forNatural History Journal (Opens in a new tab) The Farmers’ almanac (Opens in a new tab) and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @tweet (Opens in a new tab) and onFacebook
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