Mars will play peek-a-boo with the Moon in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Feb. 18, similar to an eclipse. Tune in online to York University’s Allan I. Carswell Observatory for the best views of the Moon moving in front of the red planet, called the occultation of Mars.
The event happens every few years but is only visible from certain areas in the world. This time, the occultation will be visible from the Greater Toronto Area.
“If you’re up really early, from about 4:30 a.m. onward, you’ll see Mars low in the sky above the southeastern horizon to the left of a crescent Moon,” says Faculty of Science Professor Paul Delaney, director of the Allan I. Carswell Observatory. “As the sun rises, so too will Mars and the Moon. They will also continue to move closer to each other until the Moon completely obscures Mars.”
The new one-metre telescope in the Allan I. Carswell Observatory will be trained on the skies and will broadcast imagery starting shortly after 7 a.m. with the ingress at 7:25 a.m., when the Moon first makes its moves on Mars, until the egress at 8:49 a.m., when the red planet emerges on the other limb of the Moon. The observatory chatroom will also be available to answer questions during that time.
Sky gazers will also be able to see the event on their own with a telescope or a good pair of binoculars. A little before the occultation time, is when you’ll get a good view of Mars beside a crescent Moon.
For most of this month, Mars can be seen low in the southeastern pre-dawn sky well before the Sun rises.
The observatory will broadcast images of the event starting at 7:25 a.m. ET. Physics and Astronomy Assistant Professor Elaina Hyde will answer questions online the morning of the occultation from the observatory. Delaney, who is the Carswell Chair for the Public Understanding of Astronomy, will be leading the event. Those interested in watching the event can ask questions and view this celestial event through the York University Allan I. Carswell Observatory’s online public viewing.