Set your alarm: Moon, Mars and Earth to align before dawn on Tuesday by Brian Lada•An eclipse-like event will cause Mars to vanish from the sky over North America early Tuesday morning in a rare event known to astronomers as a lunar occultation.Similar to an eclipse when the Earth, moon and sun fall in line, during an occultation, the Earth, moon and a planet align. As a result, the Red Planet will be hidden from sight as it appears to pass directly behind the moon during Tuesday’s event.
|The planet Venus is visible on top of the moon as viewed from Quezon City, north of Manila, Philippines on Sunday, May 16, 2010. The rare occurence is called the Venus planetary occultation by the thin crescent moon. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)|
„A lunar occultation involving a planet is a rare event,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said. „There are only a few per decade as seen from any given spot on the globe.”
People do not need a telescope to see the event as the moon and Mars are both bright enough to see with the unaided eye, but knowing when to look will be extremely important — as will the weather conditions (more on that below).
The exact time that Mars will vanish behind the moon and reappear on the other side depends on your precise location.
For folks across the eastern United States, the occultation will take place after sunrise, which will make it a bit more difficult to see during the daylight.
Those across in the Plains and Rockies will have a better view as Mars will disappear behind the moon in the dark, pre-dawn sky, and will reappear around sunrise.
The western U.S. may be one of the best areas of the country to see and photograph the occultation. Although the event will begin when Mars and the moon are both out of sight below the horizon, the Red Planet will emerge from behind the moon well before the light from the sun brightens the sky.
|Click here for specific timing for hundreds of cities across the United States, courtesy of Sky & Telescope.|
In addition to knowing what time to look to the heavens to see Mars and the moon align in the sky, people will also need cloud-free conditions. Unfortunately, a far-reaching storm may spoil the short-lived show for many across the central and eastern U.S.
„We are looking at cloudy and rainy weather in the morning from eastern Texas through the Southeast and northward into the Midwest,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert said.
„Some clouds will be around the rest of the East Coast.”
Clouds may also be problematic for the northern and central Rockies as some snow falls over the region.
„The only areas that look to be clear will be in the central and southern Plains and also in the Southwest,” Reppert said.
Although special equipment like a telescope is not needed to see Mars and the moon, having one will add to the experience. This is especially true for areas of the eastern U.S. where the event will take place during the light of day.
A common pair of binoculars will also work to get a closer look at Mars and the moon in the sky, although people may need to have a steady hand to get a good look.
Tuesday’s event is one of the top 10 astronomy events of 2020, and the only one of its kind visible from North America. It is also the first lunar occultation of Mars visible from the United States wince May 9, 2013.
Other areas of the world will be able to see similar events throughout the year, including a lunar occultation of Mercury across Europe on Dec. 14, according to the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
The Pearl River is expected to crest nearly 10 feet above its flood stage in Jackson, Miss. on Saturday, prompting evacuation orders and a state of emergency declaration by the city’s mayor.
It was a frigid week for several spots across the United States as blizzards hindered travel on slick and slushy roadways for many drivers. Meanwhile, the flooding in the Deep South led to a rather unfortunate side effect in Alabama, and some much-needed good news has risen from the ashes of the devastating Australia bushfires. Here’s a look back at the week in weather.
|A truck drove off the side of the road in limited visibility Wednesday morning near Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo/North Dakota Highway Patrol)|
For people enduring the relentless snowstorm that pummeled parts of the northern U.S. at midweek, the theme of the day was clear: „stay home.” Their best bet was to steer well clear of the treacherous roadways, and officials across Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota advised them to do just that as the snowy, windy conditions prompted businesses, schools and churches to close through Thursday.
The blizzard that blasted through the region Wednesday rendered travel „near impossible,” giving drivers brave enough to face the brutal weather an extremely hard time trying to see the conditions ahead of them, leading to a few accidents. A bus crash on the slush-covered turnpike in Wichita, Kansas, sent 20 people to the hospital. In Minnesota, state troopers reported multiple vehicles having veered off the slick roads, including several jackknifed tractor-trailers.
|A man clears snow from his driveway of his house in Wheeling, Ill., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)|
The conditions were so severe that officials across the region issued blizzard warnings Wednesday. The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) issued „do not travel” advisories for the eastern part of the state, and some major highways like Interstate 29 were shut down completely for a brief time.
Dangerous travel and low visibility were just a couple of threats people contended with – the risk of frostbite was another. As the blizzard arrived, temperatures plummeted in some areas like Grand Forks, North Dakota. The AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperature dropped from 20 degrees Fahrenheit all the way down to a bone-chilling minus 61 F in an eight-hour period overnight.
As snow plowed eastward, 2-6 inches accumulated from Chicago to Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio. Snowy conditions and plunging temperatures have prompted 300 cancellations and nearly 1,000 delays of arriving and departing flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport as of early afternoon on Thursday, according to FlightAware.
|In this aerial photo provided by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, area officials monitor a potential dam/levee failure in the Springridge Place subdivision in Yazoo County, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. A Tennessee hillside collapsed, roads were flooded and rivers were rising across the Southeast on Tuesday after a day of heavy rains that once again threatened a Mississippi lake where a dam previously was in danger of failing. (David Battaly/Mississippi Emergency Management Agency via AP)|
Earlier in the week, severe flooding left homes in parts of the Deep South surrounded by water. Videos of shocking scenes in places like Mississippi and Alabama show roadways turned into rivers with floodwaters inching up to people’s doorsteps. Heavy rainfall in Carthage, Mississippi, flooded the Pearl River, impacting multiple homes nearby and causing the river to crest at its highest level in 37 years.
In Alabama, the flooding was just as severe, as the Coosa River in Childersburg flowed over its banks on Feb. 12, leaving riverfront pavilions and boat docks covered with at least a foot of water. Just the day before, flash flood warnings were issued across the state amid moderate to heavy rains. On Sunday, some Tuscaloosa County roads were inundated with almost 8 inches of rain, prompting several water rescues that afternoon, the Washington Post reported.
One of the more unsavory side effects of the storm is the millions of gallons of dirty sewage water that overflowed from the drains in Alabama following days of downpours, according to the Associated Press. Birmingham and Tuscaloosa residents had to deal with more than 18.5 million gallons of the unclean water gushing from sewer pipes over a 10-day period, according to an Alabama Department of Environmental Management report released Wednesday.
Snowy conditions didn’t just impact travelers in the North this week. The winter storm and icy conditions that hit the southern Rocky Mountains and Texas Panhandle caused headaches and slowdowns out on the roads across New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. In Denver on Tuesday morning, authorities had to shut down several highway lanes to protect drivers from the snow and ice that had coated the pavement overnight.
|Snow obscures writing on the side of the mountains above Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as seen from El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)|
Colorado’s capital received 2-4 inches of snow on Monday night, and while that’s not exactly unusual for the city, the National Weather Service office in Boulder still placed the area under a winter weather advisory. Of course, with wintry conditions usually comes at least a handful of unfortunate accidents, and that was the case in Denver on Tuesday. The police department reported at least 46 crashes that had occurred that morning.
In the Texas Panhandle, the same storm system dumped up to 3 inches of snow over the area, leaving patches of snow and ice over many roads and forcing schools and businesses to shut their doors or delay activities.
Residents in some of the bushfire-ravaged parts of Australia can breathe long-awaited sighs of relief, as officials declared this week that all fires in New South Wales were officially contained.
„The good news just keeps rolling in!,” the New South Wales Rural Fire Service tweeted on Tuesday after announcing that a fire burning for over 200 days was now kaput. While recent downpours across the state resulted in flooding, they also aided in putting out around 30 fires, including one that had ravaged more than 1.24 million acres.
From Feb. 8-9, Sydney recorded its heaviest rainfall in decades after 15.42 inches doused the city over four days – over three times its normal rainfall amount for all of February. Still, the rain spells good news amid one of Australia’s worst bushfire seasons.
„The threat has ended for the parts of New South Wales, where they’ve had so many fires,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Eric Leister. „The soil is so saturated now that fires aren’t really going to spread, and the environment is not favorable for these big, fast-spreading fires that they had at the end of last year.”
To date, the Australia blazes have killed at least 28 people and nearly half a billion animals.
Something out of the ordinary occurred in Baghdad on Tuesday – snow fell in Iraq for the first time in 12 years, marking only the second time in a century that this has happened.
|A protester walks tosses a snowball during anti-government protests, in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Feb.11, 2020. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)|
The „fairly rare” event was a result of cold air from western Russia making its way toward the atmosphere’s upper levels and into the city, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.
While it’s pretty uncommon for Baghdad to see snow, Nicholls added that northern Iraq is no stranger to it during winter, since that portion of the country lies at higher elevations than the capital city.
Deadly Storm Ciara left behind a mess in Europe last weekend as it pounded the country with powerful winds, heavy downpours and subsequent flooding that killed at least five people, according to the AP, and interrupted hundreds of flights. The storm impacted countries including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland and Slovenia as well as other parts of northern Europe.
|A lifeboat passes white cliffs, as Storm Ciara hits Newhaven, on the south coast of England, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)|
In addition to those deaths, several others were hurt by falling and flying debris amid powerful gusts, which reached speeds of up to 100 mph in some locations, including Germany, where Ciara was known as Sabine.
The storm left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity. By Monday in the U.K., nearly half a million customers had lost power, while in France, over 125,000 homes and businesses dealt with power cuts from the brutal weekend storm.
Ciara’s rainfall triggered flooding across the U.K., where there were several reports of 1-2 inches. Some areas across Wales and northern England were drenched with over 4 inches of rainfall.
Sydney (AFP) – Australia’s „black summer” of devastating bushfires is finally coming to a close, but bitter arguments over how to tackle climate-fuelled disasters are raging on.
When firefighters announced this week that all blazes in the hard-hit state of New South Wales were under control for the first time since September, the relief was palpable.
In other regions, a few fires are still being contained, but most Australians can finally abandon the grim rituals of the last half-year — morning checks of smog monitors and „Fires Near Me” apps, deciding whether the kids can play outside, whether to flee or defend their homes.
But the after-effects will endure, and national soul searching has already begun.
„We know events like these can challenge the way we think about the world, undermine our perceptions of safety, and rupture social bonds,” said disaster response expert Erin Smith.
Dozens of families have lost loved ones, thousands of homes and farms have been gutted, swathes of the east coast are scarred charcoal-black and millions have had their sense of security shaken.
„It will likely take years and a great deal of imagination for us to figure out where we go from here,” said Smith.
The question of what is next for Australia is already being asked, most of all of political leaders, and it is being met mostly with finger-pointing and recrimination.
– ‘Heads above the parapet’ –
While scientists agree climate change created favourable conditions for the blazes, politicians of all stripes are acutely aware how sensitive the issue is in Australian politics.
In an arid nation whose economic strength is intimately tied to the mining and export of fossil fuels, at least four prime ministers have been ousted in part over their climate policies.
In recent weeks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has seen his ruling conservative coalition threatened by members in rural constituencies demanding funding for more coal-fired power plants.
At the same time, the centrist wing of his party has criticised his climate targets as inadequate.
Meanwhile rebel members of opposition Labor met secretly to steer the centre-left party’s leadership toward a more overtly pro-coal stance.
The party’s deputy leader awkwardly refused to rule out more coal subsidies, months after vowing they should end.
„They don’t want to stick their heads above the parapet, at least when it comes to suggesting substantive policy,” said Matt McDonald, an expert in climate politics from the University of Queensland.
One reason, he explained, is that while the hot and dry Australian continent is uniquely susceptible to the impact of climate change, it is also a world-beating source of coal.
Coal accounts for around 75 percent of Australia’s electricity generation and exports of the fossil fuel are worth Aus$60 billion a year, the country’s largest export after iron ore.
People in affluent suburbs may call for emissions cuts and green energy, but coal accounts for thousands of jobs in election-deciding districts of Queensland and New South Wales, and many more in the related aluminium smelting business.
Independent MP Zali Steggall — a former barrister and Olympic medal-winning skier — who ousted climate-sceptic former prime minister Tony Abbott from his Sydney seat at the last election, wants to take some heat out of the debate.
She has introduced a bill that would reduce Australia’s carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and divert some contentious issues to an independent expert body.
„The debate has been very divisive,” in part because of the blame game, Steggall told AFP. „There was a certain defensiveness in the early days of this debate because the finger was so squarely pointed at coal and fossil fuels.”
„You have to think about a generation that worked really hard at building Australia’s prosperity on fossil fuels. You have to be very careful in the debate about apportioning blame. It’s not like it was done on purpose.”
„It’s about recognising and being thankful for that contribution, but acknowledging that we do need to evolve,” she added. „We’re all going to get there in the end.”
With bushfires projected to get ever more deadly and the next season a little over six months away, the risk, Steggall says, is that politicians take so long to reach consensus „it will be too late to do anything”.