Nubes lunares – Marte desaparece

La luna ocasionalmente se mueve frente a todos los planetas del sistema solar, incluido Marte. Crédito: Sergio Cuzzo

¿Cuáles son algunos de los aspectos más destacados de la observación del cielo en diciembre de 2022? La luna barre pasado[{» attribute=»»>Jupiter twice this month, and actually covers Mars completely, in an event called an occultation, on December 7. The event is visible across the U.S., except for the Southeast and East Coast, where the Moon will graze closely past Mars. And throughout the month, you can find Pegasus, the winged stallion, high overhead in the south.

A qué prestar atención en diciembre de 2022: Marte desaparece y Pegasus se embarca en una aventura. Los espectadores de la mayor parte de los Estados Unidos y Europa pueden ver a Marte deslizarse detrás de la luna el 7 de diciembre, y todos pueden encontrar la constelación del caballo alado Pegaso.

  • Diciembre 1 – Mire hacia el suroeste esta noche para encontrar la Luna a solo unos dedos del brillante Júpiter.
  • 7 de diciembre – La luna llena
  • 7 de diciembre La luna oscurece a Marte esta noche. En los Estados Unidos, Marte se está deslizando detrás de la Luna para los espectadores de todo el mundo más allá de la costa este y el sureste, donde la Luna parecerá pasar apenas por delante de Marte. Consulte su aplicación o sitio web favorito de observación de estrellas para saber cuándo desaparecerá y reaparecerá Marte.
  • 23 de diciembre – Luna nueva
  • 25-31 de diciembre – Consultar la luna y los planetas al final del año. Mire cada noche cómo la luna cada vez más llena se desliza[{» attribute=»»>Saturn on the 26th and then past Jupiter on the 28th.
  • All month – Find the constellation Pegasus high in the south-southwest after dark. Look for bright Jupiter and find the Great Square of Pegasus about 15 degrees above it.
Moon Mars Occultation

Lunar occultation of Mars. Credit: Andrés Jobacho

Video Transcript:

What’s Up for December? Your evening planet highlights, including the disappearance of Mars, and the constellation Pegasus.

The month begins and ends with the Moon visiting the giant planets. On December 1st, find the Moon just a couple of finger-widths apart from Jupiter in the evening sky. Then, from the 25th to the 31st, look to the southwest following sunset to see an increasingly full Moon slip past Saturn and then again past Jupiter. Viewers with a clear view to the horizon will be able to search for Venus and Mercury in the fading glow of sunset, just a few degrees above the skyline.

December 7 brings one of those magical moments when the sky changes dramatically before your very eyes. It’s called a lunar occultation, as the Moon passes in front of, or occults, the Red Planet, Mars. The spectacle will be visible in parts of North America, Europe, and Northern Africa. (Viewers in the Southeast and on the East Coast will see the Moon just graze past Mars.) For viewers in the U.S., Mars disappears behind the Moon sometime between about 6:30 and 9 p.m., depending on your location, so check your favorite skywatching app to find the time for your area.

Now, the Moon passes in front of planets in the night sky several times per year. In fact, it generally occults Mars itself at least a couple of times per year. But each occultation is visible from only a small portion of Earth’s surface, so it’s not super common for any particular spot on Earth to see them frequently.

Of course, the Moon passes in front of stars all the time. If you’re watching through binoculars, they just blink right out. But planets are not just points of light like stars – they appear as circular little disks, so planets actually take several seconds to disappear and later reemerge. So if you’re in the viewing zone, enjoy this relatively rare opportunity to watch a bright planet being occulted by the Moon.

Looking high in the southwest sky on December evenings, you can find a constellation named for one of the more fantastical beasts of ancient mythology. That’s Pegasus, the winged horse. In Greek myth, Pegasus rode into adventures with the hero Belaraphon, and later carried the thunderbolts of Zeus himself, who rewarded him by placing him among the stars.

Pegasus is one of the largest of the 88 constellations. Its most prominent feature, and the key to finding it in the sky, is this asterism, or pattern of stars, called the Great Square. These four stars of roughly equal brightness form the central part of the horse’s body.

This December, it’s easy to locate Pegasus, thanks to brilliant Jupiter. Face southward to find the giant planet about halfway up the sky, with the Great Square beginning about 15 degrees to the north of it.

Pegasus is a useful constellation for stargazers, as it’s a good starting place for finding your way to other features in the night sky. The constellation itself contains a number of dazzling deep-sky objects, including globular cluster M15, and the tangled galaxies of Stephan’s Quintet. With this year drawing to a close, here’s hoping you seek out the winged stallion Pegasus, as you ponder what new adventures await in the next year.

Here are the phases of the Moon for December.

Moon Phases December 2022

The phases of the Moon for December 2022. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Stay up to date with all of NASA’s missions to explore the solar system and beyond at I’m Preston Dyches from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and that’s What’s Up for this month.

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