Lunar Occultation: Earth, Moon and Mars to Align on Tuesday; 'Rare Event' to Be Visible in L.A. Skies

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A lunar occultation is seen in an image from Dec. 1, 2008. (Credit: HRVOJE POLAN/AFP via Getty Images

A lunar occultation is seen in an image from Dec. 1, 2008. (Credit: HRVOJE POLAN/AFP via Getty Images

A rare celestial event will occur just before sunrise Tuesday, as the moon passes directly between the Earth and Mars, KTLA sister station KSWB in San Diego reported on Monday.

During the eclipse-like event, which is known as an occultation, Mars will glide behind the crescent moon and be hidden for more than an hour before reemerging on the other side, according to AccuWeather.

“A lunar occultation involving a planet is a rare event,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said, according to a post on the weather forecasting site. “There are only a few per decade as seen from any given spot on the globe.”

On the West Coast, it will take place in the overnight hours of Feb. 18 and, weather conditions permitting, should be visible to the naked eye in the pre-dawn darkness, according to experts.

The AccuWeather forecasts shows that people in Los Angeles will be able to see it from 3:38 a.m. to 4:29 a.m. Tuesday.

Exact times of visibility will vary depending on location, but the lunar occultation will be more difficult to see in the eastern U.S., where it will already be daylight.

The good news for those in Southern California: it’s one of the few areas where conditions are expected to be ideal to witness the rare phenomenon.

“The only areas that look to be clear will be in the central and southern Plains and also in the Southwest,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert said.

KTLA’s Tracy Bloom contributed to this story. 

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