Earth's Moon Will Eclipse Mars Tonight, How To Watch The Lunar Spectacle

hero mars passing behind moon
Some nighttime sky watchers will be privy to seeing a lunar occultation tonight, as the Moon passes in front of Mars. While the viewing of the occultation will be limited, many others will still be able to witness a conjunction or close approach of the pair of celestial objects.

A lunar occultation happens when the Moon passes in front of a star or other object in space. These events happen a few times a year, with many happening in clusters with several occultations of the same object in successive months. The occultation event later tonight will be viewable by those in the southern part of the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Central America. Viewers can expect to see Mars pass behind the Moon starting around 23:10 CST in the western sky, according to In The Sky.

If you are not in one of those areas, you still have a chance of viewing a conjunction of the Moon and Mars. This is where the two will share the same right ascension. Others will be able to view a close approach, called an appulse, which is when the Moon and Mars will pass within 6.2 arcminutes of one another.

occultation viewing area

One of the reasons the event will be different for people depending on location is due to the fact that the Moon is much closer to Earth than other objects in the night sky. Dominic Ford of In The Sky says, "The position of the Moon as seen from two points on opposite sides of the Earth varies by up to two degrees, or four times the diameter of the full moon."

Due to this fact, no singular occultation can ever be seen across the entire Earth. If the event is viewable to someone on one side of the planet, it will be up to two degrees away from the object it is passing in front of on the other side of the world.

The next viewable occultation for those in the United States will occur on May 17, 2023. This particular occultation should be able to be seen by most in the continental states. Instead of passing in front of Mars, this occultation will be the Moon passing in front of Jupiter.

If you would like to see a full list of the countries and territories where tonight's occultation will be viewable, visit the In The Sky website.

Top Image Credit: Sergio Scauso/NASA