Moon approaching Mars on December 6-7
Moon approaching Mars
Look for a triangle of objects near the moon on the night of December 6-7, 2022. You’ll see the sparkling Pleiades star cluster, the fiery red star Aldebaran (Eye of the Bull in Taurus). And you’ll see bright red Mars, now just one day away from its December 7-8 opposition. So Earth will fly between Mars and the sun tomorrow. And tomorrow night – on December 7-8 – the moon will occult, or pass in front of, Mars. Lots going on!
You’ll find more about tomorrow’s events at the links below. For tonight, notice that the Pleiades, Aldebaran and Mars form a nice triangle in the sky, framing the moon as seen from our perspective in North America.
The Pleiades, or 7 Sisters
The Pleiades look like a tiny misty dipper in the sky. This cluster is more dipper-like than the actual Little Dipper asterism in the northern sky. Some people see six stars in the Pleiades. Others see seven stars, or more. In Greek skylore, the Pleiades were called the Seven Sisters.
Aldebaran, Eye of the Bull
Aldebaran is a bright red-orange star. You can’t miss it! And, if your sky is dark enough, notice that the star Aldebaran is the brightest member of a V-shaped grouping of star called the Hyades star cluster. The ancient stargazers saw the Hyades as forming the Bull’s Face, and Aldebaran as the Bull’s Eye. Most of the stars in this V are part of a true star cluster in space. Aldebaran isn’t a part of the cluster, though; it’s a bright foreground star.
Aldebaran is often brighter than Mars, when Mars is far across the solar system. But now – with Earth poised to pass between Mars and the sun tomorrow – Mars is brighter than Aldebaran!
A big week for Mars
Mars is a great target to observe this week and throughout December. And tomorrow night for much of North America (the morning of December 8 for Europe), the full moon will occult – or eclipse – Mars. Then, just hours later, Mars reaches opposition. That is when Earth will pass between Mars and the sun, with Mars appearing opposite the sun in our sky.
Mars is now rising at sunset and setting at sunrise. At opposition, the distance between Mars and Earth will be approximately closest for about a two-year period. So Mars is particularly bright now … and fun to see.
By the way, Mars will remain in Taurus for the rest of the year and most of the first quarter of 2023.
Bottom line: See the moon approaching Mars on December 6, 2022. Plus watch for the Pleiades star cluster and red star Aldebaran close by. Here’s what to look for.