FEBRUARY 17, 2020
Ron Dantowitz took this image in Bonita Springs, Florida, during the June 2003 Mars occultation event.
It’s like David Copperfield with the Statue of Liberty, only better.
The moon is scheduled to perform a magic trick on Tuesday morning when it will make Mars disappear. Don’t worry. It’s only temporary.
Skywatchers in North America will have a shot at witnessing the moon-Mars occultation. These events happen a couple times a year, but catching them is dependent on timing and location, much like with a solar or lunar eclipse. It’s a rare opportunity to see some cosmic sleight of hand.
Sky & Telescope crunched the numbers and created a list of the exact disappearance and reappearance viewing times for major cities across the US. West Coast locations like San Francisco and Seattle will only be able to catch the reappearance.
“For viewers in the Eastern time zone, the occultation begins soon after local sunrise, but you may be able to see Mars disappearing behind the Moon with a telescope or good binoculars,” NASA said in a stargazing update for February.
People in the Mountain time zone will have the best shot at clear views of both sides of the Mars action.
The usual skywatching caveats apply. Cloudy weather can spoil the fun. Even if you live in a prime viewing area, using binoculars or a telescope can enhance your experience. Just be sure to time a hearty shout of “Abracadabra!” for right when Mars disappears.