Similar to an eclipse when the Earth, moon and sun fall in line, during an occultation, the Earth, moon and a planet align. As a result, the Red Planet will be hidden from sight as it appears to pass directly behind the moon during Tuesday’s event.
“A lunar occultation involving a planet is a rare event,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said. “There are only a few per decade as seen from any given spot on the globe.”
People do not need a telescope to see the event as the moon and Mars are both bright enough to see with the unaided eye, but knowing when to look will be extremely important — as will the weather conditions (more on that below).
The exact time that Mars will vanish behind the moon and reappear on the other side depends on your precise location.
For folks across the eastern United States, the occultation will take place after sunrise, which will make it a bit more difficult to see during the daylight.
Those across in the Plains and Rockies will have a better view as Mars will disappear behind the moon in the dark, pre-dawn sky, and will reappear around sunrise.
The western U.S. may be one of the best areas of the country to see and photograph the occultation. Although the event will begin when Mars and the moon are both out of sight below the horizon, the Red Planet will emerge from behind the moon well before the light from the sun brightens the sky.
In addition to knowing what time to look to the sky to see Mars and the moon align in the sky, people will also need cloud-free conditions. Unfortunately, a far-reaching storm may spoil the short-lived show for many across the central and eastern U.S.
“We are looking at cloudy and rainy weather in the morning from eastern Texas through the Southeast and northward into the Midwest,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert said.
“Some clouds will be around the rest of the East Coast.”
Clouds may also be problematic for the northern and central Rockies as some snow falls over the region.
“The only areas that look to be clear will be in the central and southern Plains and also in the Southwest,” Reppert said.
Although special equipment like a telescope is not needed to see Mars and the moon, having one will add to the experience. This is especially true for areas of the eastern U.S. where the event will take place during the light of day.
A common pair of binoculars will also work to get a closer look at Mars and the moon in the sky, although people may need to have a steady hand to get a good look.
Tuesday’s event is one of the top 10 astronomy events of 2020, and the only one of its kind visible from North America.
Other areas of the world will be able to see similar events throughout the year, including a lunar occultation of Mercury across Europe on Dec. 14, according to the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.
Content from accuweather
What goes through your mind when you think of the full moon? Is it the werewolves that supposedly come alive, howling at it all evening long? Is it perhaps the magic that flows under its glowing gaze? Continue reading August 2020’s Sturgeon Moon Meaning And When To See It At It’s Fullest
On July 12/13, 2020, Comet NEOWISE finally becomes visible after sunset.
Although it’s brighter than all but around 20 stars, its extended, diffuse nature makes it a challenge for human eyes.
It’s easiest to first locate with binoculars, below the Big Dipper in the northwest skies. Continue reading How To See Comet NEOWISE, Visible To The Naked Eye Until July 23rd 2020
Skywatchers in much of Canada and the United States will be treated to a penumbral lunar eclipse on U.S. Independence Day, just before the full “buck moon” rises late on July 4 and early July 5. Continue reading July’s Buck Moon Lunar Eclipse – Where & When To Watch It