On Wednesday (December 7), skywatchers around the world received a celestial show as the full moon eclipsed Mars in the night sky.
The rare event, known as a lunar occultation, marks one celestial body — in this case, Mars — appearing to disappear or hide behind another — in this case, the Moon. This absence was particularly noteworthy because Mars was in opposition, meaning Earth was directly between it and the Sun, making the Red Planet appear particularly bright in the night sky.
Related: Watch Mars in opposition in this free webcast tonight (December 8)
Last night’s disappearance of Mars by the full moon produced some great images from observers around the world. The Griffith Observatory in California had a great view of the Moon and Mars meeting up on December 7 and captured the time-lapse of the red planet disappearing behind Earth’s celestial companion as seen in the video above.
Plus, skywatchers around the world are posting gorgeous photos of the occultation of the moon on Mars on social media, offering a look at one of the most-watched celestial events of the year.
Astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy Mars and the Moon caught (Opens in a new tab) In a nice close-up:
This is the moment when the planet Mars appeared from behind our Moon, after being hidden for an hour. This shot was taken using my largest telescope and a special high speed camera. Seeing another planet rising over the horizon of our moon was a surreal experience. pic.twitter.com/8IctbVXuUMDecember 8, 2022
Spaceflight photographer John Crouse A An amazing shot of Mars (Opens in a new tab) As it appeared behind the moon after the unseen:
Amateur astrophotographer Tom Williams has produced a remarkable image of the Moon and Mars by combining and displaying several images An explanation of how the image was made (Opens in a new tab) on Twitter.
The Lunar #Occultation of #Mars 2022! This is a crop from a wider image, showing the red planet descending behind the moon’s eastern limb taken last night from home. Sinus Gomer central with Syrtis Major at the top. See topic for treatment. What happened! #photography pic.twitter.com/IBNiW8mA9cDecember 8, 2022
Amateur astronomer and photographer Tom Glenn A An amazing picture of Mars (Opens in a new tab) Rise above the moon by stacking 15 different photo frames.
# Mars rising above the lunar limb. This is a set of 15 frames taken at an interval of 2 seconds during the end of occultation by #Moon. Captured with a C9.25 Edge HD camera, ASI678mc. pic.twitter.com/xrDiI3d7keDecember 8, 2022
Astronomer and science communicator Phil Plait has been arrested Mars crawls behind the moon (Opens in a new tab) Just before invocation.
Moon and Mars a few minutes before the event. I photographed this through my bedroom window with my spotting scope and phone camera (that’s why there’s a strong moon reflection in the upper left). Look at the color contrast! The backbiting was great, pious… https://t.co/lpxYVpmbmi pic.twitter.com/SUISrvttx7December 8, 2022
The full moon’s occultation of Mars was particularly noteworthy because the Red Planet only appears at opposition every 26 months, so the next opposition won’t occur until January 2025.
Mars was also particularly close to Earth during this event, which occurred when the planet was at perihelion, or its closest point to Earth in its orbit. The record for closest approach between Mars and Earth was set in 2003 at just 34.8 million miles (56 million km); According to NASA, Mars and Earth will not be this close for another 265 years, until the year 2287.
Editor’s note: If you captured a great photo of Mars at opposition or lunar occultation and would like to share it with Space.com readers, submit your photo(s), comments, name, and location to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: This piece was updated at 4:30 PM EST (2130 GMT) on Dec. 8 to note that the record for Mars’ closest approach to Earth was set in 2003.
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