When and how to watch the fully occult Mars in prime time this week using only your bare eyes
Are you ready for the biggest astronomical event of the year?
The night of Wednesday, December 7, 2022, is the night to watch the night sky, because that’s when a full “cold moon” will appear to obliterate Mars.
Here’s everything you need to know when, where, and how to see this rare “occultation” of Mars by the Moon from where you are, with your own naked eyes:
When is Mars in “opposition?”
This week, the Red Planet will be at its brightest and best for more than two years – and into 2025 – as Earth and Mars are closest.
But it’s a complete coincidence that just as Mars reaches its largest, brightest, and best size for 26 months, it will be eclipsed – eclipsed – by the full Moon. The last opposition dates from October 2020 and the next will take place in January 2025.
This will happen almost at the exact moment Earth is between Mars and the Sun, on the night of December 7-8, 2022.
Where to see Mars occulted by the Moon
Most of North America, northern Mexico, Europe and northern Africa will see Mars disappear behind the Moon for about an hour. There is a handy map on the website of the International Occult Synchronization Association.
When to see Mars occulted by the Moon
The occultation takes place for North Americans on the evening of December 7, 2022. Here are the disappearance and reappearance times for eight cities in the occultation zone in North America:
- Los Angeles, CA: 6:30 p.m. PST-7:30 p.m. PST
- Seattle, Washington: 6:52 p.m. PST-7:51 p.m. PST
- Vancouver, BC: 6:55 p.m. PST-7:52 p.m. PST
- Phoenix, AZ: 7:32 p.m. MST-8:31 p.m. MST
- Denver, Colorado: 7:45 p.m. MST-8:48 p.m. MST
- St. Louis, MO: 9:06 p.m. CST-9:52 p.m. CST
- Chicago, IL: 9:11 p.m. CST-10:05 p.m. CST
- Toronto, ON: 10:29 p.m. EST-11:18 p.m. EST
How to see Mars occulted by the Moon
You don’t need anything but good timing and your own bare eyes to enjoy this event, but if you have a pair of binoculars, have them ready for a stunning close-up, especially those lingering moments when Mars disappears from view behind the lunar limb.
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.