Space watchers will be able to witness an extraordinary Mars lunar occultation at the end of the month. On Monday, January 30, the Moon will sidle up close to the Red Planet. However, in certain parts of the world, like southern California, the southern Rockies, as well as parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and the Deep South (Georgia and Florida), you will be able to watch as the Moon eclipses Mars.
These types of events happen when the two orbits of Mars and the Moon seem to cross, depending on where you are in the world. We previously had another Mars lunar occultation occur eight weeks ago, which saw Mars eclipsed by the Moon for parts of North America (via Space.com).
During that previous Mars lunar occultation, the Moon was fully illuminated. However, this time around, things won’t be nearly as bright, with the Moon only at 74 percent illumination. Mars also won’t be as bright, as it has now retreated over 29 million miles farther from our planet since the last lunar encounter in December 2022.
Despite that, though, the Mars lunar occultation is still worth looking into, and something that space lovers will want to witness for themselves. For most of the affected parts of the country, Mars and the Moon’s paths will cross when the two are high in the sky. That means you’ll want to head outside once the dark of night has settled in good and keep your eyes on the Moon and the Red Planet together.
The Red Planet’s orbit will see Mars vanishing behind the dark part of the Moon, while it will reappear some minutes later behind the brightly lit side of the waxing gibbous Moon that will fill our sky on January 30. Of course, this kind of event isn’t nearly as startling as a Martian solar eclipse, or even a total lunar eclipse, but it is still inspiring and lovely to see.