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Moon-Mars occultation: Rare encounter of celestial bodies to be visible today

Moon-Mars occultation occurs twice every year.
The Moon-Mars occultation will also be visible to the naked eye. (HT Archive)
Published on Apr 17, 2021 11:11 AM IST
By | Written by Shankhyaneel Sarkar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Skygazers will be able to watch a rare celestial event when the moon will come between Earth and Mars on Saturday. On Saturday evening, people will be able to see Mars, which is seen as a red dot in the night sky, next to the moon. The phenomenon known as occultation can be seen with naked eyes around 5pm ISon Saturday evening. During this time, Mars will not be visible anywhere in the sky for a short period of time. Just ahead of the occultation, the Red Planet will be seen close to the waxing crescent.

According to US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), occultation is a phenomenon when one object passes in front of another object which is much smaller, for example when the moon passes in front of a distant star. Occultations led to the discovery of planet Uranus’ rings by Nasa’s Kuiper Airborne Observatory when the planet occulted a star. Moon-Mars occultations are visible from Earth twice a year but the space agency says it is about being in the right place at the right time to catch them.

Along with India, people on the western coast of southern Africa to Indonesia will be able to see the occultation. According to Poornaprajna Amateur Astronomers’ Club, people in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada will be able to witness this phenomenon. People are advised to start looking towards the moon as dusk turns to darkness about 90 minutes after sunset, according to a report by Forbes. The report also highlighted that the occultation will continue over 30 minutes. Gianluca Masi, national coordinator for Italy of the Astronomers Without Borders group, said that the moon and a bright planet come at the same spot in the sky once per month for each planet. “Every time the Moon and a bright planet share the same spot in the sky, usually one time per month for each planet, it is a good idea to invite people to look up,” Masi told Forbes.

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