I hope you said your goodbyes to the red planet because, from our viewpoint here on Earth, Mars has disappeared. That is to say, it has disappeared behind the Sun due to the Mars solar conjunction. The conjunction began on November 18 and will only end around two weeks later.
The Mars solar conjunction, from Earth’s perspective, happens every two years. Interestingly, the two planets will also be at the farthest from each other during the conjunction. The average distance from Earth to Mars is about 225 million kilometers, but during the conjunction, that number may go as high as 400 million kilometers.
According to In the Sky, Mars will slowly begin to reemerge to the West of the Sun at the end of the conjunction. It will eventually become visible for longer and longer in the sky before dawn. Around a year later, it will reach opposition meaning that Mars and the Sun will be on opposite sides of our planet. At that time, Mars will be visible for almost the entire night.
While the conjunction may be little more than a fleeting event for skygazers here on Earth, it is a completely different story for many of the spacecraft we have on and orbiting the red planet. NASA is shutting off all communications to its Mars fleet due to the conjunction. This is because the Sun’s corona could interfere with any messages sent between Earth and Mars, causing robotic probes like Perseverance Rover and Ingenuity helicopter to function unexpectedly.