On Tuesday, February 18, the moon will hover directly in front of Mars and completely cover it.
The moon covers Mars relatively often – according to Sky & Telescope it will occur five times this year alone – but we cannot always see it from Earth. However, next week residents of North America can check to see what is called lunar coverage . The moon's orbit brings it between Earth and Mars and enables the moon to "swallow" the red planet within 14 seconds. Mars remains hidden for almost 90 minutes and then reappears behind the moon.
Depending on where you live, you may need to set your alarm clock a little earlier than usual to see the show. In general, people in the eastern parts of the country will see Mars disappear a little later. In Phoenix, for example, it will happen at 4:37:27 a.m., the Chicagoers can see it at 6:07:1
If you can't help but press the snooze button, you can skip the disappearing act (also known as plunge ) and wait for Mars to reappear on the other side of the moon (called ). Emersion ). The immersion times also vary depending on the location, but are about an hour and a half later than the immersion times on average. You can check the specific times for hundreds of cities across the country here [PDF].
Since Mars only needs 14 seconds to completely disappear (or reappear), punctuality is a necessity – as is optical assistance. Mars is not bright enough to be seen with the naked eye. Sky & Telescope therefore recommends looking into the sky through binoculars or a telescope.
Are you thinking of holding an early morning party on Tuesday? Here are 10 interesting facts about Mars that you can use to impress your guests.
[h/t Sky & Telescope]