Moon occults Mars on December 7-8
The moon occults Mars
Here’s hoping you have clear skies on the evening of December 7 to 8, because there’s much to see! First, the full moon is near Mars in the early evening of December 7, 2022. The precise moment of full moon is at 10:08 p.m. CST on December 7 (4:08 UTC on December 8). Over the evening, as the moon moves past Mars, it will pass in front of the red planet for much of North America and Europe. This is known as an occultation, as the moon covers up or eclipses Mars. Then, around 12 a.m. CST (6 UTC) on December 8, Mars reaches opposition. During opposition, the sun, Earth and Mars will form a line, with Earth in the middle.
To see the occultation of Mars, you’ll want to check In-the-Sky.org to find the precise time Mars will disappear and reappear from your location. This fascinating and unusual event appears to skywatchers who are northwest of a diagonal line drawn from Augusta, Maine, through Columbus, Ohio, through Little Rock, Arkansas, and San Antonio, Texas, extending into Mexico. The map below will let you know if your part of the world gets to view the occultation.
For those who live outside the viewing area, as in the southeastern United States, you’ll see the moon and Mars skim right past each other. Some places will even get to see Mars play peekaboo along the cratered and mountainous limb of the moon.
Mars at opposition
Because Mars reaches opposition in December 2022, it’s the best month to view it. Mars’s opposition, when it’s opposite the sun in our sky, means that it’s visible from sundown to sunup. During December, the red planet will also be at its brightest. It’s the closest Mars will be to Earth for the next two years.
Because the moon will be full and bright on December 7-8, you’ll want to use binoculars to spot the dimmer planet.
Other sights this night
While you’re out stargazing, look for the shimmering star cluster of the Pleiades. You should also spot the fiery red star Aldebaran nearby. Does Mars or Aldebaran look redder to you? And, of course, the eye-catching constellation of Orion the Hunter is near the horizon. Take advantage of this night filled with wonderful observing opportunities.
Bottom line: On the evening of December 7 to 8, 2022, depending on location, the full moon occults Mars just hours before Mars reaches opposition.