‘Celestial magic trick:’ Chicagoland gets its chance to see rare astronomical event this week

CHICAGO — Stargazers will have their eyes to the skies Wednesday night, but they won’t be looking for Santa and his sleigh, instead they’ll be viewing a rare celestial event.

It’s a lunar occultation of Mars!

What is that you ask?

That’s when the moon does what the Adler Planetarium calls “a celestial magic trick, causing Mars to disappear behind it and reappear later.”

According to the Adler experts, an occultation occurs when an object is hidden from the observer by another object that passes between them, sort of like an eclipse.

Chicagoland along with much of North America will be able to see this astronomical event shortly before 9 p.m. CST on the evening of Wednesday Dec. 7.

Adler officials say Mars will appear bright in the sky when the moon passes between it and Earth, so you won’t need any special equipment to view the event, but they do recommend using binoculars to help see Mars slowly dim as it disappears and then slowly brighten when it reemerges.

The occultation is predicted to last for just under an hour, then Mars will fully appear shortly after 10 p.m. CST .

Now if you miss Wednesday’s lunar occultation, it will happen again for Chicagoans on January 13, 2025.

You can also see the occultation LIVE weather permitting, at 9 p.m. on Adler’s YouTube program Sky Observers Hangout where they’ll also answer questions via the YouTube chat.

Chicago News