As Mars progresses through the latter stages of the conjunction, it will gradually emerge to the west of the sun, becoming increasingly visible in the pre-dawn sky.
In a celestial phenomenon that takes place biennially, Mars appears to vanish from our earthly perspective during the Mars solar conjunction, commencing on November 18. This disappearance is not an unforeseen occurrence, an optical illusion, or an atmospheric abnormality; there is scientific reasoning behind the Red Planet’s temporary absence.
A planetary alignment places Mars directly behind the Sun, causing it to be temporarily invisible to Earth observers. During this phase, Mars is hidden from view due to the sun’s intense brightness.
The conjunction is anticipated to last for about two weeks. Throughout this period, Mars and Earth are at their farthest distance from each other, with the average gap of 225 million kilometers expanding to as much as 400 million kilometers.
While this event is a regular happening in the celestial calendar, it captivates skywatchers with its distinctive visual impact.
As Mars enters the latter phase of the conjunction approximately a year later, it will gradually reappear to the west of the sun, becoming increasingly visible in the pre-dawn sky.
A year later
Around a year later, the Red Planet and the Sun will be positioned on opposite sides of Earth. During this phase, Mars will illuminate the night sky for an extended period of time.
Significantly, the Mars-Mars solar conjunction has practical implications for space agencies and their missions on the red planet.
In response to the celestial alignment, NASA has temporarily suspended communications with its Mars fleet. This decision is based on the potential interference caused by the sun’s corona, which could disrupt signals between Earth and Mars.
This precautionary measure aims to prevent unforeseen behaviors in robotic probes such as the Perseverance Rover and the Ingenuity helicopter, ensuring their operational integrity during this astronomical event.