The last-quarter moon will make a close approach to the Red Planet in the predawn sky on Saturday (June 13), providing a celestial treat for early birds and night owls.
If you’re up before the sun on Saturday morning, look to the southeast horizon to find Mars snuggled up close to the waning moon, which reaches last-quarter phase that morning at 2:24 a.m. EDT (0624 GMT).
Mars and the moon will be in conjunction — meaning they share the same celestial longitude — tonight (June 12) at 7:55 p.m. EDT (2355 GMT), according to the skywatching site In-The-Sky.org. But for skywatchers in the United States, the pair won’t be visible at that time. In New York City, for example, Mars rises on Saturday at 1:16 a.m. local time, and the moon rises about 20 minutes later.
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Even if you aren’t able to witness the moment of their conjunction, the moon and Mars will still put on a great show when they rise in the morning. The 21-day-old moon will be less than 3 degrees to the south of Mars, and both will be in the constellation of Aquarius, the water bearer. (Reminder: Your clenched fist held at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees of sky.)
They’ll start to fade out of view when dawn breaks, so to get the best view, you’ll want to look before sunrise. In New York City, the sun rises at 5:24 a.m. local time on Saturday.
Mars will be shining at a magnitude of -0.2, or nearly as bright as Alpha Centauri, the third-brightest star in Earth’s sky, not including the sun. (Magnitude is a logarithmic scale of brightness used by astronomers, with negative numbers denoting brighter objects.)
The Red Planet will continue to brighten over the coming months, until Oct. 13, when it reaches opposition — the point in its orbit where it is directly opposite the sun in Earth’s sky. By then it will have reached a magnitude of -2.7, which is more than three times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
Editor’s note: If you have an amazing night sky photo or video that you’d like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at [email protected]