The Moon visits Mars this weekend. In this article, you’ll find out how and when to see the dance of the Moon and the Red Planet, what the lunar occultation is, and even more!
Close approach of the Moon and Mars
Having passed the closest point to the Sun in its orbit, the perihelion, on Monday, August 3, 2020, Mars is going to join the brilliant Moon. The conjunction of the Moon and Mars will happen on Sunday, August 9, 2020, at 08:00 GMT (04:00 a.m. EDT). The Moon will meet Mars in the Pisces constellation, where the celestial bodies will shine at magnitudes of -12.1 and -1.3 respectively.
The lunar disk and Mars will be visible with the unaided eye, but you can bring a pair of binoculars to get a closer look. Gaze on the eastern part of the sky before going to sleep to witness the spectacular sight of this bright astronomical duet. The early risers should look for it in the western part of the sky at dawn when both celestial bodies will reach their high point in the sky.
Consult the stargazing app Star Walk 2 to find out the rise and set times for the Moon and Mars to avoid missing their beautiful dance. Moreover, the app will help you to find the celestial bodies in the sky above you and see the stars and constellations surrounding them.
Lunar occultation of the Red Planet
The observers from South America can witness one more exciting astronomical event — the lunar occultation on August 9, 2020, at 08:38 GMT (04:38 a.m. EDT). Lunar occultations happen when a star or a planet is hidden by the lunar disk that passes between it and the observer. On August 9, the gibbous Moon will pass in front of Mars and block the Red Planet from the observers’ view for several hours.
Lunar occultations provided scientists with opportunities to compare the position of the Moon and stars at particular points in time and thus contributed to the lunar theory, which attempted to explain the motions of the Moon. For centuries, lunar motion posed a difficulty for astronomers, but nowadays it is well studied and modeled. For this reason, lunar occultations are not of significant scientific value today but still put on a spectacular show for observers.
The Moon at apogee
On Sunday, August 9, 2020, at 13:50 GMT (09:50 a.m. EDT) the Moon reaches its apogee — the most remote point in its orbit from the Earth. The orbit of the Moon is slightly elliptical and thus its distance to the Earth varies by approximately 10%. That is why the Orb of the night appears a little bit smaller these days than usual. Having reached its full phase on August 3, 2020, the Moon is waxing now and will reach the last quarter on August 11, 2020.
Learn more about Moon phases and find more astronomical news and interesting facts with Star Walk 2.
Wishing you clear skies and happy observations!