Astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy captured Mars rising behind the full Moon which temporarily eclipsed the Red Planet in the night sky on Wednesday.
McCarthy tells PetaPixel that he had been monitoring the rare celestial event over the course of 2022 so he could get fantastic images of Mars peeking out behind the Moon.
“I had to start by learning more about planetary photography, so I spent the summer shooting planets every night to learn all the best tricks,” he says.
“I also needed a better telescope than what I had, so I found one in Los Angeles and picked it up a few weeks ago.”
Aside from a new telescope, McCarthy also needed a new camera.
“The reason for that is the moon moves so fast relative to mars that I only have a brief window to capture it in a specific spot, so traditional timeframes for capturing no longer apply,” he explains.
“In fact, I had to limit my capture to only 10 seconds otherwise the motion of Mars would blur the image. None of my equipment could handle doing that in a way that would produce the type of results I wanted.”
Known as a lunar occultation, Wednesday’s celestial event was particularly noteworthy because Earth was directly between Mars and the Sun, known as opposition, making the Red Planet appear particularly bright in the night sky.
“This event happened while Mars was relatively low on the horizon, which means I’d be seeing through more atmosphere,” adds McCarthy.
“To help combat local ground-based air currents ‘fuzzing’ the image, I set up my telescope next to my pool (there’s a picture on my Twitter if you want to see) which stabilized the air when pointing over it.”
McCarthy was operating four telescopes as a backup in case anything went wrong but his main one was a 14-inch Dobsonian that was tracking the spot on the Moon where Mars would appear from.
I got it! Mars reappearing after being temporarily hidden by the moon. I got a ton of footage, I'm going to clean it up and share images soon! pic.twitter.com/xdXVZLWUzN
— Andrew McCarthy (@AJamesMcCarthy) December 8, 2022
“The final image is a mosaic, as the field of view was quite small [see above video]. After the event, I panned my telescope around to fill in the areas of the moon I wanted to include in the final photo.”
Image credits: All photos by Andrew McCarthy.