December 7 update: The first of several March to Opposition webcasts will begin tonight, Dec. 7 at 9 p.m. EST (02:00 Dec. 8 GMT) and you can watch it live above. The livestream will show views of Mars and the moon from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
This week offers multiple opportunities to get a good look at the red planet.
On Wednesday (December 7), the full moon will be in close proximity to bright Mars in an event known as the lunar occultation. And on Thursday (December 8), Mars will be in opposition, which means that in Earth’s sky, it will be directly opposite the sun. These events also coincide with Mars being near perigee (its closest point to Earth), occurred on November 30.
The perfect storm of astronomical events means it’s a wonderful week to observe Mars in the night sky, appearing larger and brighter than usual and making itself easy to spot next to a cold full Moon. And even if you have cloudy skies or can’t get outside, you’re still in luck: there are plenty of opportunities to see Mars at its best this week thanks to several free live streams online.
Related: Mars in opposition will meet the full moon next week (December 7). Here’s how to see it
Read more: Full Moon December 2022: Cold Moon Overshadows Mars
How to see Mars in person this week
For many parts of North America, Europe, and parts of North Africa, the lunar occultation will be visible in the night sky on December 7-8.
The show begins about an hour after sunset in the constellation Taurus on Dec. 7 for North American skywatchers as the full moon and Mars approach (in Europe, the event will occur just before sunrise). sun on December 8). Depending on where you are, the red planet will then disappear behind the moon before reappearing an hour later.
Sky and Telescope has put together a guide to when and where you can see Mars (opens in a new tab)disappear behind the moon this week during the lunar occultation.
Livestream from Griffith Observatory on the Lunar Occultation of Mars
On Wednesday (7 December)the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California will host a free online livestream (opens in a new tab) of the lunar occultation of Mars. The broadcast will start at 9:00 p.m. EST (02:00 GMT on December 8), time permitting. Mars will disappear behind the Moon at 9:31 p.m. EST (0231 GMT) and reappears an hour later.
The observatory will also upload a time-lapse recording of the event on Thursday (December 8) at 11:00 a.m. EST (1600 GMT).
McDonald Observatory livestream of March to Opposition
McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin, in conjunction with Lowell Observatory in Arizona, will host a Mars to Opposition live stream. The show starts on Thursday (December 8) at 9:00 p.m. EST (02:00 GMT on December 9) and can be found on the McDonald Observatory YouTube channel (opens in a new tab).
Hosts from both observatories will provide commentary during the event that will include discussions of Martian geology and history as well as spaceflight missions to the Red Planet. Weather permitting, the live stream will include live views of Mars opposite telescopes from both observing sites.
The livestream of the Mars-occulting moon virtual telescope project to the opposition
The Virtual Telescope Project (opens in a new tab) will host a free livestream of the moon obscuring Mars in opposition. The broadcast will start at 10:00 p.m. EST Thursday (03:00 GMT December 9) and can be found on the project’s YouTube channel (opens in a new tab).
What does it mean when Mars is in opposition?
When astronomers say a planet is in opposition, it means that the planet, Earth, and the sun are all in a straight line, with Earth in the middle. This arrangement means that the planet is literally opposite the sun, hence the term “opposition”, making the planet appear brightly lit from our vantage point on Earth.
When the Red Planet is in opposition, it is much brighter than usual and therefore much easier to see in the night sky. This event only happens every 26 months, and the planet’s elliptical orbit means that during some oppositions, Mars is closer to Earth than others.
During this week’s opposition, Mars will be closer to Earth than it will be until 2033. The Royal Astronomical Society has put together a great explainer (opens in a new tab) about the event, including the video below.
What is a Lunar Occultation of Mars?
The word “occult” means to conceal or hide from view; When astronomers refer to an occultation, they mean an event in which one celestial object passes in front of another from an observer’s perspective, hiding the object behind it. In the case of Mars’ lunar occultation this week, this means that from Earth, the moon will appear to conceal or “cover” the Red Planet. For many viewers, Mars will disappear behind the Moon for about an hour before reappearing.
There are enough occultations throughout a given year for there to be an international occultation synchronization association (opens in a new tab) which provides detailed information such as the exact locations and times of other occultations.
The Griffith Observatory released an explanatory video (opens in a new tab) of the event below.
Read more: What is an occultation?
Whether you’re new to skywatching or have been doing it for years, make sure you don’t miss our guides to the best binoculars and telescopes to see the Mars occultation and other amazing things in the world. night sky. To capture the best images of Mars or the Moon, check out our recommendations on the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.
Editor’s note: If you take a great photo of Mars during lunar opposition or occultation and want to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, and name and location to email@example.com.
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