Occur to have clear skies tomorrow morning and dwell within the western a part of North America? Then you’ll have an opportunity to spy a singular occasion, because the waning crescent Moon occults (passes in entrance of) the planet Mars.
That is the last word cosmic photobomb, as our Moon slides in entrance of Mars within the twilight daybreak sky. The intense limb of the Moon is at all times main when the Moon is waning, that means that Mars will disappear behind the illuminated crescent Moon, and reappear alongside the darkish limb.
The Moon is a 24 p.c illuminated crescent in the course of the occasion, and Mars shines at +1.2 magnitude and presents a disk 5″ throughout. Not like a stellar occultation the place a star abruptly winks out, planetary occultations are sluggish stately affairs.
Tuesday morning, it is going to take the Moon about 15 seconds to completely cowl Mars, and the same period of time for it to reappear.
After all, the 2 solely look shut to one another within the sky on Tuesday morning, as they lie alongside the identical line of sight as seen from our Earthly vantage level.
The Moon is simply shy of 1 / 4 of 1,000,000 miles away or simply over one light-second distant, whereas Mars is 670 instances farther, at 167 million miles or 15 light-minutes away.
This lunar occultation transpires within the daybreak hours of Tuesday 18 February for North America.
Observers in america, central Canada and northern Mexico west of a line from the Nice Lakes area to the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico will see the occultation below darkish skies.
A sliver of land operating from New Orleans to Chicago will see a hybrid occasion, with ingress occurring earlier than dawn and egress occurring after, whereas the US East Coast and the Canadian Maritimes will see the pair shut at daybreak, however the precise occultation occurring after dawn.
As of scripting this, climate prospects look to favor the western US. Take note, you do not want a crystal clear sky to view the occultation: only a good clear view of Mars and the Moon.
Here is a have a look at native circumstances for the occasion for chosen cities across the area:
You possibly can comply with the occasion both with the bare eye, binoculars or a telescope. Occultations are additionally nice occasions to seize on video, as you may see the motion unfold in real-time. When you’re observing east of the road, don’t despair; you continue to have a shot at seeing +1st magnitude Mars close to the daytime Moon.
Talking of which, remember to look ahead to an optical phantasm often called the ‘Coleridge Impact’ at egress. It is a phenomenon the place the close by star or planet appears to hold Proctor and Gamble-style between the horns of the crescent Moon, in seeming defiance of physics.
The title comes from Samuel Coleridge’s lengthy poem Rime of the Historic Mariner and the road “one brilliant star, nearly atween the guidelines (of the) horn’d Moon.”
Additionally preserve an eye fixed out for Jupiter, Saturn and the ‘Anti-Mars’ the brilliant star Antares, additionally in the identical celestial daybreak scene.
Mars is a first-rate goal of curiosity in 2020, because it nears one other nice opposition on 13 October 2020.
This additionally means this summer season is Mars mission launch season, as 4 missions could make the journey to the Purple Planet, together with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, ESA’s Exomars rover Rosalind Franklin, China’s first Mars lander and orbiter, and the United Arab Emirates’ Mars Hope orbiter.
The Moon truly occults Mars 5 instances in 2020… however the 18 February occasion is the one beneficial occasion for North America.
Right here in Norfolk, we’ve to attend till the night time of 13 and 14 January 2025 to see the Moon occult Mars… only a day previous to opposition. And stick round till April 26th, 2488 AD and head to Antarctica or southern New Zealand, and you’ll see the Moon occult Mars… throughout a complete lunar eclipse
And here is a wacky one we simply may dwell to see: a triple emoticon grouping of Mars, Mercury and the Moon on February 13th 2056.
Set your alarms tomorrow morning, and do not miss the ‘Nice North American lunar occultation of Mars’.
Examine occultations, eclipses and extra in our ebook, The Universe At the moment Final Information to observing the Cosmos.
This text was initially printed by Universe At the moment. Learn the unique article.