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Full Moon and the Hidden Nature of Mars: This week on The Storyteller's Night Sky

Mars will be occulted by the Moon starting at 11:08 pm est Wednesday evening, December 7. Image from Sky&Telescope.

The big news in astronomy this week is the occultation of Mars by the Full Moon on Wednesday evening, December 7 at 11:08 pm ~ visible for most of the United States.

In astronomical terms, to occult a celestial object means to block or hide it, and in this case, the Full Moon will literally block the planet Mars from view, for about an hour. If the Moon were doing this to the Sun we would call it an eclipse.

So what happens when Mars is hidden by the Moon? Or, what hidden thing occurs during such a configuration? Is Mars truly blocked, or is some aspect of its nature, something that is otherwise hidden, actually amplified by the Moon?

There’s a Grimm’s fairy tale that I like as a way to address the mystery of this phenomenon: Snow White and Rose Red, a beautiful tale about two sisters who live in a forest cottage with their loving mother. One wintry evening they hear a knock and are startled to find a bear at the door, come to seek shelter. Though they’re frightened, he assures them he means no harm, and overtime he becomes their regular guest and playmate.

In the Spring the bear departs, and then the sisters then have several encounters with a wicked dwarf. There are several trials the sisters must go through with the dwarf, including an earth trial, a water trial, one of air, and then a trial of fire, at which point the bear returns to conquer the dwarf, and his own true nature is revealed. The bear is really the son of the Golden King, who was enchanted by the wicked dwarf who had stolen his treasure.

I imagine the bear is the hidden aspect of Mars in this week’s encounter with the Moon, which we must find despite whatever trials await us if the fallen, or wicked-dwarf-like nature of Mars gets amplified by the Moon. The hidden treasure is always own true nature.

Mary Stewart Adams is a Star Lore Historian and host of “The Storyteller’s Night Sky.” As a global advocate for starry skies, Mary led the team that established the 9th International Dark Sky Park in the world in 2011, which later led to her home state of Michigan protecting 35,000 acres of state land for its natural darkness.