The Moon Just Passed in Front of Mars, Producing Some Stunning Images

It's called a lunar occultation of the red planet and there won't be a chance to see it again from Earth until 2025.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
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Eric Mack
mars rising over the lunar horizon

Photographer Juan José Ortiz captured the surface of the moon and Mars behind it from Metepec, Mexico, on Jan. 31.

Juan José Ortiz / SpaceWeatherGallery.com

The famed "Earthrise" image taken by Apollo astronauts of their home planet rising over the lunar horizon gave humanity a new perspective on our home. In a sign of how far we've come, amateur astronomers were recently able to take comparable pictures from the surface of our planet showing what could be our future home rising over the lunar horizon. 

On Monday evening and early Tuesday morning, it was possible to see the moon occult, or pass in front of, Mars from our vantage point on Earth. Specifically, it was visible from the southern United States and most of Mexico and Central America. 

The results for skilled skywatchers with decent astrophotography chops in that region included some pretty remarkable images of the red planet rising behind the "dry ocean" Mare Smythii on the lunar surface. 

composite image of moon occulting mars

Photographer John Ashley created this composite image of the moon occulting Mars by combining shots of the progression spaced 40 seconds apart. 

SpaceWeatherGallery.com/John Ashley

It might not be too long before astronauts catch a view like this from the moon, perhaps while visiting a waypoint there before traveling on to Mars. NASA plans to build an orbiting outpost around the moon called Gateway in the coming years, allowing us to catch a "Marsrise" over the moon from another perspective. 

As it is now, a lunar occultation of Mars can be a fairly rare occurrence to see from Earth. While there was another visible occultation in December, there won't be another decent opportunity to see it from the surface until 2025. 

By that point we might be closer to looking at Mars from the moon in person as well.