Tonight, in the early morning of January 30-31, those in southern North America, Central America, or the Caribbean will have the opportunity to view the lunar occultation of Mars. In reality, Mars and the Moon have been playing hide-and-seek for several months, giving away a show that, as if it were the tour of a famous artist, has gradually visited every point on the planet. On December 8 it was in North America and Western Europe, on January 3 in the Indian Ocean and Central Africa. Now it’s their turn.
For a few hours, on that side of the world, you will see how Mars gradually approaches the Moon, disappearing behind it and returning to be seen a few hours later.
The lunar occultation will take place with our satellite 74% full, so Mars will hide under its dark end and reappear a few hours later at the bright end. The time will depend on where we are, of course. But, if we focus on the time zone of Mexico City, it will start at 22:59 and last until 00:27, according to Space.com.
What is a lunar occultation like this from Mars?
A lunar occultation occurs when the Moon, in its trajectory around the Earth, passes in front of a celestial object, according to an observer located on our planet. In this case, for people located in the aforementioned regions, the Moon will pass in front of Mars and hide it for a few hours.
Not to be confused with an eclipse
Although, etymologically speaking, it could perhaps be said that the Moon is going to eclipse Mars, the term eclipse is used in astronomy in a different way. Specifically, it refers to the phenomenon whereby light from one object is blocked by another. For example, in a lunar eclipse, the Earth is placed between the Sun and the Moon, so that the latter, not receiving the light of the king star, is darkened.
How can we see it?
If the skies are clear, the lunar occultation of Mars will be visible to the naked eye. Just look at the constellation Taurus, where the red planet will be found. Or, much simpler, look directly for the Moon. The bright and red point that will gradually get closer to it is Mars.
It is easy to see without help; although, logically, the spectacle will be seen much better with binoculars or a telescope. In addition, it will be a good time for lovers of astrophotography to take out their cameras and immortalize the show. Thus, those of us who this time are in the least fortunate part of the planet will also have the opportunity to see it.