This week offers several opportunities to get a good look at the Red Planet.
On Wednesday (Dec. 7), the full moon will be close to bright Mars in an event known as a lunar eclipse. And on Thursday (Dec. 8), Mars will be at opposition, meaning it will be directly opposite the sun in Earth’s sky. These events also coincidentally coincide with Mars being close to perigee (the point closest to Earth),
which took place on November 30.
The perfect storm of astronomical events means this is a wonderful week to see Mars in the night sky, bigger and brighter than usual and easy to spot next to a full Cold Moon. And even if it’s cloudy or you can’t go outside, you’re still in luck: there are plenty of opportunities this week to see Mars at its best thanks to several free online live streams.
Related: Mars at opposition will meet the full moon next week (December 7). Here’s how to see it
Read more: December full moon 2022: The Cold Moon covers Mars
How to see Mars in person this week
An illustration of the night sky on December 7, showing the full Cold Moon eclipsing Mars. (Image credit: Sky Safari Astronomy)
For many parts of North America, Europe and some parts of North Africa, the lunar eclipse will be visible in the night sky on December 7 and 8.
The spectacle begins about an hour after sunset in the constellation of Taurus on Dec. 7 for North American skywatchers as the full moon and Mars move close together (in Europe, the event takes place just before sunrise on Dec. 8). Depending on one’s location, the Red Planet will then disappear behind the Moon only to reappear an hour later.
Sky and Telescope has put together a guide on when and where to see Mars
(opens in new tab)disappear behind the moon this week during lunar eclipse.
Griffith Observatory live stream of the lunar eclipse from Mars
Wednesday (December 7)the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California will host a free online live stream (opens in new tab) of the lunar eclipse of Mars. The broadcast starts at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT on December 8), weather permitting. Mars will disappear behind the moon at 8 p.m 9:31 PM EST (0231 GMT) and reappear an hour later.
The observatory will also upload a time-lapse recording of the event on Thursday (Dec. 8) at
11am EST (1600 GMT).
McDonald Observatory live stream of Mars at opposition
The McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin, in conjunction with the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, will host a live stream of Mars at opposition. The broadcast starts on Thursday (December 8) at
9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT on December 9) and can be found on the McDonald Observatory YouTube channel (opens in new tab).
Hosts from both observatories will provide commentary during the event, including discussions about the geology and history of Mars, as well as spaceflight missions to the Red Planet. Weather permitting, the live stream will include live images of Mars in opposition from telescopes at both observatory sites.
The Virtual Telescope Project’s live stream of the moon eclipsing Mars at opposition
The virtual telescope project
(opens in new tab) will host a free live stream of the moon eclipsing Mars at opposition. The broadcast starts at 10 p.m. EST on Thursday (3 a.m. GMT on December 9) and can be found on the project’s YouTube channel (opens in new tab).
What does it mean when Mars is in opposition?
When astronomers say a planet is in opposition, it means that the planet, Earth, and Sun are all in a straight line, with Earth at the center. This arrangement means that the planet is literal
opposite the sun, hence the term “opposition,” which makes the planet appear brightly lit from our point of view on Earth.
When the Red Planet is at opposition, it is much brighter than usual and therefore much easier to see in the night sky. This event only occurs every 26 months, and the planet’s elliptical orbit means Mars is closer to Earth than others during some oppositions.
During this week’s opposition, Mars will be closer to Earth than it will be until 2033. The Royal Astronomical Society has put together a great explanation
(opens in new tab) about the event, including the video below.
What is a lunar eclipse from Mars?
The word “occult” means to conceal or hide from sight; when astronomers refer to an occultation, they mean an event where one celestial body passes in front of another celestial body from an observer’s perspective, hiding the object behind it. In the case of Mars’ lunar eclipse this week, that means that from Earth, the moon appears to be hiding or “covering” the red planet. For many viewers, Mars will disappear behind the moon for about an hour before coming back into view.
There are enough occultations during any given year that there is an International Occultation Timing Association
(opens in new tab) which provides detailed information such as exact locations and times of other occultations.
The Griffith Observatory has published a video explanation
(opens in new tab) of the event, which can be found below.
read more: What is an occultation?
Whether you’re new to skywatching or have been doing it for years, make sure you don’t miss our guides to the best binoculars and telescopes to watch the eclipse of Mars and other incredible things in the night sky. Check out our recommendations for the best astrophotography cameras and the best astrophotography lenses to get the best Mars or Moon photos.
Editor’s Note: If you take a great photo of either Mars at opposition or lunar eclipse and want to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to [email protected] .