Another Moon-Aldebaran Meeting!

Hey, sky fans! Happy Friday! Just a quick post for now, and I might do another short one later (you’ve been warned). The skies were clear! For now, just the one.

Tomorrow night, March 4, 2017, the moon and Aldebaran will team up again for another one of in this long series of occultations that’s carrying off into 2018. This time, it’ll be the giant star Aldebaran occulting the moon!

I kid.

Tomorrow night, around 11:00 where I am, the moon will pass directly between Earth and the Aldebaran, and block it out. This’ll be prime viewing for most of the US. It’ll will be a particularly good one to see because the moon is only around first quarter — a waxing half moon. The right-hand side (as seen from Earth) of the moon is lit, but it’ll be approaching Aldebaran toward the left. This means Aldebaran will disappear behind the darkened side of the moon, and be easier to see because there’ll be less of a glare.

The moon will occult Aldebaran on March 4, 2017 (from Stellarium)
The moon will occult Aldebaran on March 4, 2017 (from Stellarium)

The farther north you are, the farther toward the moon’s north Aldebaran will appear to vanish. This means there’s are places that are far enough north where people will see a “grazing” occultation, which will give them a chance to see Aldebaran disappear and reappear behind the moon’s mountains and cliffs several times before they go their separate ways.

To find it, just look for the moon in tomorrow night’s sky. You’ll see the bright orange star Aldebaran, in the constellation Taurus near by. Over the night, the moon will slowly creep up on Aldebaran until, poof (pop? beep?), it’ll blink out of existence. Don’t worry, it’ll reappear a little while later. Along the way, the moon will occult some other stars in the V-shaped asterism near Aldebaran. Those stars are in the Hyades, the nearest star cluster to Earth. Aldebaran isn’t part of the cluster, but is between us and it, closer by about 100 light years. Who knows what it’s occulting all the time?

From Sky & Telescope, here’s a map of where you can see the occultation, including the graze line, the area where you’ll see the grazing eclipse.

This is another great chance to have a look at the solar system in action, so if you can, you know what to do. There’s more information on timing and stuff here, and some more detailed maps here.

I hope you can see it. Let me know how it goes, and clear skies, everyone!

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