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Watch the Moon Occult Mars Before Sunrise on February 18th – Sky & Telescope

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On Tuesday February 18th the Moon will go in entrance of Mars occulting the Purple Planet round or simply earlier than dawn for viewers in North America.

Mars at the moon's edge

Mountains alongside the Moon’s darkish limb nick the south polar cap of Mars on this dramatic picture taken July 17, 2003, by Andrew Chaikin. The disk was 19.6″ throughout on the time.

There are 5 lunar occultations in 2020 that contain Mars, however February’s would be the just one seen within the U.S. and Central America. The others happen in March, August, September, and October, and are all principally seen within the Southern Hemisphere (September’s occasion can even be accessible to viewers in northern Africa and southernmost Europe).

On February 18th, the planet will probably be 92% illuminated, 5.2″ in obvious diameter, and shine at magnitude 1.2 when it meets the Moon lower than 1° north of the Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius.

The December 24, 2007, occultation of Mars seasoned with rock music.
The planet’s obvious diameter on the time was 15.eight″. Motion begins on the 1:22 mark.

In a stellar occultation the Moon slowly sneaks up on a star and sucks it from sight in a tiny fraction of a second. The suddenness of the disappearance, additionally known as immersion, can take your breath away. Occultations happen in actually a blink of the attention as a result of stars are so distant that they’re basically factors of sunshine. Coupled with the truth that the Moon has subsequent to no ambiance, a star stays vivid proper as much as the Moon’s edge after which vanishes right away. The celerity with which this occurs can be a reminder of simply how briskly the Moon is touring in its orbit, averaging three,680 kilometers per hour.

Mars is completely different. It presents a small disk, so it can take the Moon about 14 seconds to swallow the Purple Planet begin to end. Disappearance happens on the vivid limb and reappearance on the trailing, or darkish, limb. The time between disappearance and reappearance, or emersion, depends upon how centrally the Moon and planet cross, and might range from minutes to about an hour and a half, relying in your location. Visually, we’ll witness an exquisite Mars-set on the approaching limb adopted by what guarantees to be a spectacular Mars-rise on the darkened, earthlit limb when the planet reemerges.

Occultation visibility map

The Mars occultation will probably be extensively seen throughout the U.S., Canada, and Central America. Cyan = occultation at moonrise/moonset; purple dotted = daytime occultation; blue = twilight occultation; and white = nighttime occultation. Click on here for a listing of cities and viewing instances.
Occult four.9

Areas within the jap U.S. will see Mars disappear shortly after dawn and reappear in a full daylight sky. Whereas the darkish limb will not be seen after dawn, a telescope should still present the just-discernible planet upon emersion. Midwestern observers will see the disappearance throughout twilight and reappearance round dawn. Cities within the far West will miss the disappearance solely as a result of the Moon will not have risen but. However fortunate observers will see Mars emerge in dramatic vogue from the Moon’s earthlit edge in a darkish sky.

From U.S. latitudes the occultation happens with the pair low within the southeastern sky, so ensure your observing location has a transparent view in that path. Click on here for instances in Common Time (UT) of the planet’s disappearance and reappearance for tons of of cities within the occultation zone. To transform UT to your time zone subtract 5 hours for EST; 6 hours for CST; 7 hours for MST; and eight hours for PST. Here is a pattern of U.S. cities and disappearance / reappearance instances:

New York Metropolis, NY — 7:36:37 a.m. / 9:05:49 a.m. EST
Atlanta, NC — 7:07:29 a.m. / eight:45:13 a.m. EST
Columbus, OH — 7:14:47 a.m. / eight:45:48 a.m. EST
Nashville, TN — 6:04:12 a.m. / 7:38:49 a.m. CST
Chicago, IL — 6:07:10 a.m. / 7:35:02 a.m. CST
Kansas Metropolis, MO — 5:52:48 a.m. / 7:20:43 a.m. CST
Phoenix, AZ — four:37:27 a.m. / 5:40:07 a.m. MST
Boise, ID — Reappearance solely at 5:49:02 a.m. MST
San Francisco, CA — Reappearance solely at four:30:57 a.m. PST
Seattle, WA — Reappearance solely at four:47:41 PST

Sample cities

Pattern paths displaying the Moon approaching Mars (arrows) for 4 cities. All present the planet’s location simply earlier than disappearance apart from Seattle (and different U.S. cities far west) the place solely the reappearance of Mars on the darkish limb will probably be seen.

You can too prognosticate your particular viewing circumstances by simulating the occultation utilizing a free star-charting program like Stellarium for Home windows or Mac. Choose your location and set the date to February 18th and the time close to the beginning of the occultation. Choose the Sky and Viewing Choices icon on the decrease left aspect of your display, click on on the SSO tab, and ensure the Scale Moon field is unchecked. Shut down the dialog field, after which click on the magnifying glass icon (search operate) and sort in “Mars.” Advance the time minute by minute till Mars touches the lunar limb and be aware the time. (You can too zoom in to see higher.)

Whereas Mars is comparatively vivid it is unlikely the immersion will probably be seen with out optical help. Binoculars ought to deal with this with aplomb, however a telescope will show the higher selection if for no different cause than it sits nonetheless, making it extra comfy to look at the motion. When you stay within the western half of the occultation zone, Mars will reappear on the darkish limb in early twilight or darkness and must be readily seen with the bare eye because it extricates itself from the lunar limb.

On the brink

A simulation of Mars’s look subsequent to the Moon’s limb shortly earlier than immersion round 6 a.m. CST. Utilizing excessive magnification, observers may discern the darkish albedo marking Mare Sirenum.

When you’re watching with a telescope I like to recommend utilizing the very best magnification seeing circumstances will permit. Make Mars BIG, the higher to expertise the drama unfolding earlier than your eyes.

Contemplate photographing the occasion, too. You’ll be able to take nice images simply by holding your cellular phone over the telescope eyepiece. Take a sequence of pictures because the Moon approaches Mars, slowly engulfs it, after which releases the planet. Stack them collectively in sequence in a simple on-line gif-maker like this one and you have your self a cool animation you possibly can share with Sky & Telescope or in your Fb web page. Clear skies! 

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