Skywatchers are in for a treat as the moon and Mars engage in a captivating celestial dance over the next two nights. On Wednesday (May 24), the moon and Mars will have their closest approach, known as an appulse, and conjunction, where they share the same right ascension. This means that observers will witness the two celestial bodies in close proximity in the night sky.
Although the precise moment of appulse is at 3:19 p.m. EDT (1919 GMT), and the exact moment of conjunction is at 1:33 p.m. EDT (1733 GMT) on Wednesday, according to In the Sky, the best viewing opportunities for the moon and Mars will be during the night. Specifically, the optimal time to observe this cosmic spectacle is either tonight or Wednesday night, preferably before midnight or 1 a.m., depending on your location.
During the appulse and conjunction, the moon will be in its waxing crescent phase, five days old. Mars will be situated just 3 degrees and 39 minutes away from the moon at their closest approach, making it possible to observe both objects simultaneously through binoculars. (For reference, a clenched fist held at arm’s length covers approximately 10 degrees of the sky.)
Although the moon and Mars may appear close to each other from Earth’s perspective, they are actually around 180 million miles (290 million kilometers) apart.
To locate the moon and Mars in the night sky, direct your gaze toward the constellation Cancer, although spotting Earth’s neighboring planet should be relatively straightforward even without assistance.