A celestial event in which Mars disappears behind the Moon will occur today. This phenomenon is called Moon-Mars occultation and NASA says it occurs twice a year making it not the rarest phenomenon but still a fascinating one to observe. Residents in North and Central America will be able to see it clearly in the morning (local time) for about an hour. Observers in the Pacific Time zone will be able to witness the end of the occultation while people in the Central Time zone will be able to watch its beginning.
What is a lunar occultation?
An occultation is essentially when an object blocks the view of another object for the observer. In this case, the crescent Moon will be passing in front of Mars and blocking its view temporarily from the Earth. This occultation is called the Moon-Mars occultation or a lunar occultation. An occultation can be between two planets or when distant stars are hidden by the Moon or a planet. According to a previous , this year, the Moon will cover up Mars five times. The Moon will move towards the left in the direction of Mars and it‘ll take about 14 seconds for it to hide Mars and depending on the location from where it is being viewed at, Mars can stay hidden for up to an hour and a half.
When is today‘s lunar occultation – timing?
According to , people in the Eastern Time Zone can observe the event after local sunrise at around 7:36am but will need good binoculars or a telescope. People living in the Mountain Time Zone will have the best views before dawn of both the start and end of the occultation. They should see the occultation start at around 4:41am. Residents in the Pacific Time Zone will be able to witness the end of the occultation at around 4:20am. Finally, Central Time Zone residents should see it around 5:52am. Unfortunately, the lunar occultation won‘t be visible from India or anywhere in Asia.
The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) has in detail, all the regions that will be able to observe the phenomenon along with the precise time.