Skip to main content

Tonight in space: a lunar eclipse and Mars gets close to Earth

Tonight in space: a lunar eclipse and Mars gets close to Earth


And you can watch it all online

Share this story

A lunar eclipse viewed from Toronto in 2008
A lunar eclipse viewed from Toronto in 2008
Alex Indigo / Flickr

Today is a busy day for space, and you can watch all of it from the comfort of your computer screen. To start, tonight Mars and the Earth will be just 57 million miles apart. While that won't get you as close to the red planet as the Curiosity rover, it's the closest the two planets have been in seven years. If you live near clear skies, you should be able to see Mars once it gets dark.

Later in the evening there's a perhaps more impressive sight — a total lunar eclipse. Expected to occur around 2AM EDT, the eclipse happens when the Moon passes behind the Earth, putting our planet in between the Moon and the Sun. It's a beautiful display, and NASA planetary scientist Renee Weber will be participating in a Reddit AMA this afternoon at 2PM EDT to answer any questions you might have about the event.

Mars and Earth will be the closest they've been in seven years

While both Mars and the eclipse will be viewable by many simply by looking at the night sky, there are other ways to watch if you can't make it out after dark. The Slooh community observatory will be streaming both events, starting with Mars at around 10PM EDT, with the eclipse following four hours later. NASA will also be streaming the eclipse, which you can check out directly here. It's expected to last three hours, with the peak occurring at around 3:45 in the morning.

Today's space spectacles were expected to be kicked off with one other event too: the third SpaceX resupply mission for the International Space Station (the first was back in 2012). But just two hours before launch, NASA announced that it was being put on hold until 3:29PM this Friday at the earliest due to a helium leak. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo craft had been scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, with the Dragon carrying a total of 5,000 pounds of supplies for the ISS.

As part of the launch, for the first time the company planned to attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 from the ocean as a secondary objective. While SpaceX says the chances of a successful recovery are only about 30-40 percent, it views it as a chance "to gather as much data as possible to support future testing." Today's launch was going to be streamed live online as well, and — like other SpaceX launches — it's likely that that will still be the case come its eventual takeoff.

Update April 14th, 4:07PM ET: SpaceX's launch has been delayed until Friday April 16th at the earliest. This article has been updated to note that the launch is no longer scheduled for today.