Mark your diaries and set your alarms – a very rare sight is going to light up the night sky this week. It’s not a UFO, and it’s not even Elon Musk testing his rockets. It’s Mars hiding behind the moon.
If you keep an eye out, you’ll probably notice a peculiar bright orange light in space in the early hours of Thursday morning – the result of a near-perfect alignment of the sun, Earth, moon and Mars.
The phenomenon, known as an occultation (a posh word for ‘hiding’) only happens for Mars on average every 14 years. Fortunately for us, you’ll be able to see it from the UK, but you’ll need to be prepared. Here’s everything you need to know.
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When will Mars disappear behind the moon?
Mars will disappear completely behind the moon in the early hours of Thursday. You can expect to see the moon start to come close to Mars at around 4.30am GMT on Thursday December 8.
At around 4.58am GMT, Mars will completely disappear behind the moon’s western hemisphere, and gradually reappear about an hour later.
Those timings may vary by a few minutes depending on where you are in the UK.
Where can I see Mars occulted by the Moon in the UK?
If the weather is clear, you should be able to see the occultation with the naked eye from anywhere in the UK. Areas with less light pollution may provide a better view.
Is there a live stream of the Mars eclipse?
You’ll be able to see the Mars eclipse on a live-stream hosted by The Virtual Telescope Project, beginning at 4am GMT on December 8. Watch it here.
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