World • 18 February, 2020

The moon will 'eclipse' Mars before dawn Tuesday

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As the waning crescent moon rises in the small hours of the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 18, skywatchers will be preparing for an unusual event. That morning the moon glides in front of orange, starlike planet Mars for viewers in much of central and eastern North America, space.com reports.

Parts of the western and central U.S. and Canada will be able to view both the disappearance and reappearance of the Red Planet in a dark or twilight sky.

However, from western Canada, the Pacific Northwest and northern portions of California and Nevada, only the end of the occultation will be seen, since Mars will already be behind the moon when it rises around 3:30 a.m. local time. On the other hand, across the Eastern U.S., the planet will both disappear and emerge after sunup.

Under reasonably dark skies, this event can be watched over western locations with the naked eye or binoculars, although a telescope will provide the best views.

Over the Desert Southwest and parts of the Rocky Mountain States along and east of the Continental Divide, the entire event will occur under a dark sky, but will take place very low in the east-southeast; an open view of the horizon is required. Right now, Mars is relatively faint at magnitude +1.2 and will be dimmed further by its low altitude, but it should not be hard to spot. 

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