December 8th is special, as the Moon will occult Mars at opposition. Understand…

Tomorrow, December 8, 2022, at 04:21 GMT, the Full Moon and Mars will meet in the constellation of Taurus. It’s called occultation of Mars near the Moon. Although already very rare, this scenario will be even more special, as it takes place on the night when the Red Planet will be at opposition.

The distance between them will be 32º, which is a little too big for a telescope’s field of view. Opt for binoculars or observe with the naked eye: on the same day, Mars, already at opposition, will shine with maximum intensity (magnitude of -1.9).



Mars at opposition in 2022

Mars will reach opposition tomorrow, December 8, 2022, at 05:35 GMT. The Red Planet will be positioned on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun and the three bodies will form an almost straight line in space.

What does that mean for the observer? Well, this means that we here on Earth will not be able to see Mars in the sky and there are several reasons for this:

  1. Mars will be fully illuminated by the Sun and will reach its peak brightness in the year. At a magnitude of -1.9, it will be brighter than all the stars in the sky!
  2. At opposition, the Red Planet will appear almost at the peak of its size: the angular size will be equal to 17″, which is almost three times the planet’s apparent size in May. That’s because, as recently as December 1st, Mars reached perigee (its closest point to Earth).
  3. This year, Mars’ opposition occurs near the closest perigee for the next decade — Mars will be positioned 0.54 AU (or 80 million km) from Earth.
  4. We’ll have plenty of time for observation: Mars will rise at sunset, reach its highest point around midnight, and be visible for the rest of the night.
  5. On opposition night, observers from North America, Western Europe and Northwest Africa will also have the opportunity to see the lunar occultation of Mars. At the time of occultation, the Red Planet will disappear behind the full moon’s disk.

Mars opposition is a relatively rare event — it only happens every two years or so.

So it’s something not to be missed. Keep in mind that you can start observing Mars now without having to wait for opposition. The planet is already big and bright in the sky and will continue to shine until December 8th.

This picture is worth a thousand words:

How to spot Mars in the sky?

Mars is quite easy to find and distinguish from other celestial bodies, especially at opposition. It will appear as a bright reddish dot in the constellation of Taurus — among the stars that make up one of the “horns” of Taurus.

The opposition of Mars in 2022 is especially favorable for Northern Hemisphere observers, as the planet will be positioned much higher in the sky. The planet is easily visible with the naked eye, but you can use binoculars or a telescope for observation.

This year, Mars will be tilted towards Earth, so both of its polar regions will be visible through a medium to large telescope. However, the ice caps will not be visible: the northern ice cap is now covered by a thick layer of cloud, while the southern ice cap has shrunk considerably over the summer.


Source: Pplware by pplware.sapo.pt.

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