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Between the nights of November 24 and November 27, the Moon will trail an arc across the night sky that will come close to the Red Planet Mars. The Moon and Mars will be closest to each other on tonight (November 25), during what is known as a conjunction. In astronomy, conjunctions occur when any two celestial bodies appear to come within touching distance of one another.
Conjunctions like this can involve planets, moons, stars and even asteroids.
Astronomers at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich said: “Occasionally planets seem to occupy the same space in the night sky because of their alignment – though they are in fact millions of kilometres away from each other.”
This year, the Red Planet has already made three planetary conjunctions with Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune.
And earlier last week, Saturn and Jupiter came together alongside the Moon in one of the most beautiful conjunctions in recent years – the so-called Great Conjunction.
Astronomers are now looking forward to tonight’s event when the Moon and Mars will pass close to one another.
Tom Kerss, who hosts the Star Signs: Go Stargazing podcast, said: “The Moon, meanwhile, makes a close approach with Mars this week, forming a conjunction on Wednesday night as it passes to the south of the Red Planet among the faint stars of Pisces.”
How to see the Moon and Mars conjunction tonight:
The Waxing Gibbous Moon will pass to the south of the Red Planet tonight (November 25).
The Moon will be easy to spot as it will be about 80 percent illuminated in its Waxing Gibbous phase.
And although Mars will be much smaller and dimmer – resembling a bright star – it will remain visible until the end of the year.
Stargazers in the UK should look for both in the eastern skies after sunset.
When viewed from London, for example, the Sun will set at about 4pm GMT.
As the night progresses, the pair will climb higher into the sky, heading west.
By midnight, the two will feature in the southwest skies, with Mars above and to the right of the Moon.
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And by 3am, the Moon and Mars will both dip below the western horizon for the day.
You can use online programs like Stellarium to chart the night skies on any given date for your exact location to have a better idea of what the night will look like.
Stellarium also offers a mobile app and there are other options such as Star Walk 2 or Sky View on iOS and Android.
Astronomer Bruce McClure of EarthSky said: “You can’t miss Mars, no matter where you are on Earth.
“From the Northern Hemisphere, the Red Planer lords over the southeastern sky as darkness falls now.
“From the Southern Hemisphere, Mars is seen high in the northern sky at nightfall.
“Its firey-red splendour lights up the nighttime well past midnight.”
Just a month ago, Mars was brighter than it will be for another 15 years because it was in opposition to Earth.
When a planet is in opposition, the Earth finds itself directly in between the planet and the Sun.
Mr McClure added: “At opposition in October, Earth was sweeping between Mars and the Sun.”
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