The Full Harvest Moon Dances with Mars in the Sky

~3 min

The first days of October come with new exciting astronomical events. The next Full Moon precedes the spectacular conjunction of the Moon and Mars accompanied by the occultation of the Red Planet in South America. Learn here how and when to observe them!

The Full Harvest Moon

The Full Harvest Moon will grace the sky on October 1, 2020, at 5:05 p.m. EDT (21:05 GMT). This time the Full Moon coincides with apogee, the point in the Moon's orbit farthest from Earth. When a Full Moon occurs around apogee, it's called a Micromoon and may appear a little bit smaller than usual. As the Sun passes through the constellation Virgo during this month, the October Full Moons always shine opposite it, among the stars of Aquarius and Pisces.

The closest Full Moon to the September equinox bears the name of the Harvest Moon as its bright light was a traditional aide to farmers harvesting their crops in the evening. This year it falls on October 1. However, October will host one more Full Moon that will light up the sky at the end of the month, on Halloween. Follow our news and you won’t miss it! Learn more about the Moon with the Star Walk 2 app: tap the “Sky Live” option to get information about the lunar phases and determine the exact time of the moonrise and moonset for your location.

The conjunction of the Moon and Mars

Last week the Moon visited the brilliant gas giants of the Solar System, Jupiter and Saturn. This week our natural satellite is going to join Mars in the night sky. The Moon and the Red Planet will meet on October 2, 2020, at 11:25 p.m. EDT (or on October 3 at 03:25 GMT) in the constellation Pisces, shining at a magnitude of -12.5 and -2.5, respectively.

According to the astronomer Chris Vaughan, Mars is the third brightest object in the sky (after the Moon and Venus) these days. In early October, the Red Planet will be very close to the Earth. It will reach its opposition on October 13, 2020, and appear extremely bright and big in the sky. Now you can look for Mars above the southeastern horizon in the Northern Hemisphere (or above the northeastern horizon in the Southern Hemisphere) during the evening. Let the Moon be your guide: once you find it, you’ll easily spot the reddish Mars shining nearby. Both celestial objects can be seen with the naked eye. The telescope will reveal the lighter and darker patches of Mars’ surface and its southern polar cap. Note that in most regions, Mars and the Moon won’t fit together into the field of view of a telescope.

The astronomical application Star Walk 2 will help you to enjoy the conjunction of the Moon and Mars. Turn on the app’s notifications in order not to miss it. Use Star Walk 2 to determine the position of the Moon and Mars, the best viewing time, and see the stars and constellations surrounding this bright astronomical duet in the sky.

Lunar occultation of Mars

Observers from South America can witness one more spectacular astronomical event — the lunar occultation of Mars on October 3, 2020, at 00:00 EDT (04:00 GMT). Lunar occultations happen when the Moon passes in front of a celestial body (typically, a star, a planet, or an asteroid) and blocks it from our view. This month, the lunar occultation of Mars will be visible from southern and southeastern South America, most of western Antarctica, the Ascension Islands, and southwestern Africa. In other regions, the Moon won’t pass in front of Mars at any time or will be below the horizon at the time of the occultation.

If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the above regions, Star Walk 2 will help you to observe the occultation. Note that on the screen the Moon will cover Mars earlier than in real life. Zoom in on the Moon with your fingers to remove this effect.

Happy stargazing!