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A ‘Rare Astronomical Event’ to Be Visible Wednesday in Chicago, Astronomers Say – NBC Chicago

While Chicago is already twinkling with seasonal displays, the area will be hit with different sorts of celestial glows throughout December.

In what Adler Planetarium dubs a “rare astronomical event,” a “lunar occultation” will take place early in the evening on Wednesday. Then near Dec. 25, a total of five planets could be visible to the naked eye.

The first sky-bound sight visible will be Mars. In fact, the planet has been at its peak brightness throughout the first week of December. But on the night of the full moon, which will fall Wednesday, Mars will be at its highest point in the sky in the last 15 months, according to astronomers.

As the full moon rises, Mars will actually disappear from view, hiding behind the moon, just after 9 pm, officials say. Roughly an hour later, it will reappear on the other side of the moon as it continues its journey across the night sky.

Astronomers say the process is called “lunar occultation,” which is very similar to an eclipse. An occultation of Mars occurred earlier this year, but it saw only a partial obscuration of the planet, and it was visible only in parts of Asia.

While the phenomenon will still be visible only at certain times and from certain parts of Earth, Chicago is in line to catch the sight this time around.

Later in the month, Adler astronomers say that as many as five planets will be visible to the naked eye. With the waxing crescent moon in the night sky around Christmas Day on Dec. 25, four planets will appear in the sky near the moon, officials say.

Mercury will appear as a faint spot in the southwest sky, and the much-brighter Venus will appear nearer to the horizon. Jupiter and Saturn will both also be visible on the opposite side of the moon, while Mars will be closer to the northeastern part of the sky in the evening.

The key to seeing this particular spectacle will be to have a clear sight-line of the southwestern sky approximately 45 minutes after sunset. That will enable viewers to see the four planets in the southern and southwestern portions of the sky, and to see Mars in the northeastern portion.

This spectacle will be visible during the last week of December, officials said.

For more information, stargazers can check out the Adler Planetarium’s website.

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