Rare full moon Mars eclipse impresses astronomers with occultation
On Wednesday, December 7, skywatchers around the world were treated to a celestial spectacle as the full moon eclipsed Mars in the night sky.
The event, known as a lunar occultation, refers to a celestial body – in this case, March — seeming to disappear or hide behind another — in this case, the moon. This occultation was particularly remarkable because Mars was in opposition, i.e. Earth was directly between it and the sun, making the red planet appear particularly bright in the night sky.
The occultation of Mars last night by the cold full moon produces beautiful images from observers around the world. Griffith Observatory in California had a great view of the moon and Mars coming together on December 7 and captured a time lapse of the Red Planet disappearing behind Earth’s celestial companion, as seen in the video above .
Related: Mars in opposition will meet the full moon next week (December 7). Here’s how to see it
Additionally, skywatchers around the world have been posting gorgeous images of the Mars lunar occultation on social media, offering a glimpse into one of the most-watched celestial events of the year.
Astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy caught Mars and the full moon (opens in a new tab) in a beautiful close-up:
This is when Mars peeked behind our moon after being hidden for an hour. This photo was captured using my larger telescope and a special high speed camera. Seeing another planet rise on the horizon of our moon was such a surreal experience. pic.twitter.com/8IctbVXuUMDecember 8, 2022
Spaceflight photographer John Kraus caught a great photo of mars (opens in a new tab) as it appeared behind the moon after the occultation:
Amateur astrophotographer Tom Williams produced a wonderful image of the moon and Mars by combining several photographs, and offered an explanation of how he made the image (opens in a new tab) on Twitter.
The lunar #occultation of #Mars in 2022! This is a crop of a wider image, and shows the Red Planet as it descends behind the eastern lunar limb captured last night from home. Sinus Gomer is central with Syrtis Major at the top. See the thread for the treatment. What an event ! #astrophotography pic.twitter.com/IBNiW8mA9cDecember 8, 2022
Astronomer and amateur photographer Tom Glenn produced a stunning image of mars (opens in a new tab) rising above the moon by stacking 15 different photo frames.
#Mars rising above the lunar limb. This is a stack of 15 frames captured in a 2s interval when the #Moon occultation ended. Captured with a C9.25 Edge HD and ASI678mc. pic.twitter.com/xrDiI3d7keDecember 8, 2022
Astronomer and science communicator Phil Plait caught in the act Mars crawling behind the moon (opens in a new tab) just before occultation.
The Moon and Mars a few minutes before the #occultation. I filmed this through my bedroom window using my spyglass and a phone camera (which is why there is a strong reflection of the Moon in the upper left). Look at the color contrast! The occultation was cool, taki… https://t.co/lpxYVpmbmi pic.twitter.com/SUISrvttx7December 8, 2022
The lunar occultation of Mars by the cold full moon was particularly notable because the red planet only appears in opposition every 26 months, so the next opposition will not occur until January 2025.
Mars was also particularly close to Earth during this event, which occurred while the planet was at perigee, or its closest point to Earth in its orbit. According to NASA, Mars and Earth won’t be this close for another 215 years, until 2237.
Follow Brett on Twitter at @brettley (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).