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 rare event, known as a lunar occultation, refers to one celestial body – in this case Mars – appearing to disappear or hiding behind another – in this case the moon. This occultation was particularly notable 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 March to Opposition in these free webcasts tonight (December 8)
The occultation of Mars by the full moon last night produced stunning 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 .
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 trapped 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 top 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. The record for closest approach between Mars and Earth was set in 2003 at just 34.8 million miles (56 million kilometers); according to NASA, Mars and Earth won’t be this close for another 265 years, until 2287.
Editor’s note: If you take a great photo of Mars during lunar opposition or occultation and want to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, and name and location to email@example.com.
Editor’s note: This piece was updated at 4:30 p.m. EST (21:30 GMT) on December 8 to indicate that the record for Mars’ closest approach to Earth was set in 2003.
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