Moon near Mars after sunset on August 18 and 19

See the moon near Mars

The waxing crescent moon will pass by Mars on the nights of August 18 and 19, 2023. It’ll be closest to Mars on the evening of August 18. At their closest, the moon will be 2 degrees – the width of four full moons – apart.

Mars has a roughly two-year cycle of visibility in our sky. And, for much of that cycle, it’s faint and inconspicuous. But – for a period of about six months, every couple of years – Mars brightens and appears quite red. It happens around the time Earth passes between Mars and the sun. And that happened in December 2022.

We passed between the sun and Mars on December 8, 2022, when Mars reached opposition. Now, we’re about as far away from Mars as we can get, in our smaller, faster orbit. As a matter of fact, right now Mars is on the opposite side of the solar system from us. It’s 2.45 astronomical units (AU) from us and has faded from its recent opposition of magnitude -1.9 to its current magnitude +1.77. While Mars is still brighter than most stars, it’ll remain faint until it begins to slowly brighten again later next year.

Our charts are mostly set for the northern half of Earth. So, to see a precise view from your location, try Stellarium Online.

Star chart: two positions of very thin crescent moon along green ecliptic line with Mars next to one of them.
Shortly after sunset on August 18, 2023, look for the very thin waxing crescent moon near Mars. It’ll be glowing with earthshine. On the following evening, the slightly thicker crescent moon will be higher in the sky. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

The waxing crescent moon

The very slender waxing crescent moon will be about two days old on August 18 and shining at magnitude -9.5. And then on August 19, a slightly thicker crescent moon will be shining at magnitude -10.2.

One of the reasons a young, thin crescent moon is so beautiful is because of the glow on the unlit portion of the moon known as earthshine. That pale glow on the dark side of a crescent moon is light reflected from Earth. Can you see that subtle – but lovely – glow?

Bottom line: After sunset on the evenings of August 18 and 19, 2023, look for a thin crescent moon near the planet Mars.

August 17, 2023

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