People love staring at celestial oddities: meteor showers, lunar eclipses, solar eclipses (which you shouldn’t look at). This Wednesday and Thursday, there’s another big event happening in the sky. Not only will there be what’s called a lunar occultation, when the moon appears to block another object for us humans, but a perfect storm of astronomical events will make it even more special.
As per Space.com, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, Mars will appear to move behind Earth’s moon for a full hour. What’s more, Mars will be at opposition, meaning it will be seen directly opposite to the sun. But that’s not all: On November 30, Mars was in perigee, meaning it was at its closest point to Earth. The lunar occultation will happen about a week after that event, which means the Red Planet is still close and bright.
If that wasn’t enough, Wednesday will be the last full moon of 2022. Ergo, lucky observers will be able to see a bright Mars next to a full Cold Moon, making for some very pretty pictures (though you’ll probably need a telescope or binoculars).
How does one watch this? Well, there’s a couple ways. For those who want to behold it with their very own eyes, it will be visible to most of North America, with the exception of the southeastern United States, the northeast coast, and most of Alaska. For those who can see it, Mars will disappear behind the moon around 9:31 pm EST and reappear an hour later.
For those unlucky to live in areas where the lunar occultation is not visible can still see it, in a sense. Both the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin have set up livestreams, which will begin around 9pm EST.
The lunar occultation of Mars isn’t that infrequent; it happens every 26 months. Still, two years and change is a long time not to see something this gorgeous.