Moon covers Mars on December 7 and 8

December 7 to 8 is a busy night, as the full moon covers Mars just hours before the Martian opposition. Opposition is when an object is opposite the sun in the Earth’s sky. During opposition, the 3 objects line up with the Earth at the center. Graphics via John Jardine Goss/EarthSky.

The moon covers Mars

I hope you have clear skies on the evening of December 7-8, because there is a lot to see! First, the full moon is near Mars in the early evening of December 7, 2022. The precise moment of the full moon is at 22:08 CST on December 7 (4:08 UTC on December 8). As the moon moves past Mars in the evening, it will pass in front of the red planet for much of North America and Europe. This is known as an occultation, because the moon covers or eclipses Mars. Then, around noon CST (6 UTC) on December 8, Mars reaches opposition. During opposition, the Sun, Earth, and Mars form a line, with Earth at the center.

To see the occultation of Mars, you’ll want to visit In-the-Sky.org to find the exact time when Mars will disappear and reappear from your location. This fascinating and unusual event appears to skywatchers northwest of a diagonal line drawn from Augusta, Maine, through Columbus, Ohio, through Little Rock, Arkansas, and San Antonio, Texas, and extending into Mexico. The map below will let you know if your part of the world will see the eclipse.

For those who live outside the viewing area, such as in the southeastern United States, you’ll see the Moon and Mars skimming right past each other. In some places, Mars will even be seen playing peek-a-boo along the moon’s cratered and mountainous rim.

Map of where you can see the moon occult Mars with cylindrical shadows over much of the northern hemisphere.
If you want to see the moon’s occult Mars, you need to be inside the shaded area on the map. Image via Dominic Ford/In-the-Sky.org.

Mars in opposition

Since Mars will reach opposition in December 2022, this is the best month to watch it. Mars’ opposition, when it’s opposite the sun in our sky, means it’s visible from dusk to dawn. In December, the red planet will also be at its brightest. It is the closest Mars will be to Earth in the next two years.

Since the moon will be full and bright on December 7 and 8, you’ll want to use binoculars to spot the fainter planet.

Within a circle is a large white circle and a small red circle with an arrow indicating movement.
On the evening of December 7, 2022, over much of North America and in the early morning hours of December 8, 2022, for much of Europe, the moon will cover Mars. Check In-the-Sky.org for the exact timing of the disappearance and return of Mars from your location. Graphics via John Jardine Goss/EarthSky.

Other sights this night

While stargazing, look for the glittering star cluster of the Pleiades. You should also see the fiery red star Aldebaran nearby. Does Mars or Aldebaran look redder? And, of course, the striking constellation of Orion the Hunter is near the horizon. Take advantage of this night full of wonderful observation opportunities.

Bottom line: On the evening of December 7/8, 2022, depending on location, the full moon will cover Mars just hours before Mars reaches opposition.

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