Watch as the Moon muscles in on Mars’ Taurus action

A young crescent Moon lies just 2.7 degrees south of Mars on the evening of 19 March. The pair lie in Taurus, close to the bright star Aldebaran and the stunning Pleiades (Messier 45) and distinctive Hyades open clusters. AN Graphic by Greg Smye-Rumsby.

Early evenings sees Mars, the red planet, putting on a good showing among the stars of Taurus, the Bull. Mars lies not far from the splendid Pleiades open cluster (Messier 45) and the more sprawling, ‘V’-shaped Hyades open cluster, which is adorned by foreground Aldebaran (alpha [α] Tauri), the bright red giant star. This picturesque scene is then embellished further by the presence of a pretty crescent Moon.

The crescent Moon captured from London makes for a beautiful sight. The Moon’s phase will be similar for its coming together with Mars on 19 March. Image: Dorota Maja Majewska.

Despite Mars being way past last October’s magnificence, it remains a relatively bright object shining at around magnitude +1.1. At October’s opposition, the red planet shone brightly at magnitude –2.8, but since then Mars has retreated to a distance of around 242 million kilometres (151 million miles), four times as far away.

Mars captured on 8 October 2020, close to its opposition best, when it had an apparent diameter of 22.5 arcseconds. The red planet is now under six arcseconds across. Image: Damian Peach.

As darkness falls on 19 March at about 7.30pm GMT, the red planet lies just 2.7 degrees north of a crescent Moon. This close conjunction provides a fine astro-imaging opportunity, as well as a splendid sight through a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. Mars is around 50 degrees above the west-south-western horizon and is easy to identify, lying around seven degrees north-west of Aldebaran and 9.5 degrees west of the Pleiades. It will be interesting to compare Mars’ ochre-hue with that of slightly brighter (magnitude +0.87) Aldebaran. By the end of March, Mars has faded to magnitude +1.3 and sets not long after midnight (BST).