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Moon and Aldebaran

September 4, 2015

Skywatchers along a wide swath of the eastern seaboard can watch a stellar disappearing act late tonight. The Moon will pass directly in front of Aldebaran, blocking the star from view for a little while. The rest of the country will have to settle for a dazzling close encounter between the two.

Aldebaran is the bright eye of Taurus, the bull. It lies just a few degrees from the ecliptic, which is the Sun’s path across the sky. The Moon stays close to the ecliptic as well, so some months it “occults” the star, hiding it from view.

If you’re in the northeast, this occultation begins a few minutes either side of midnight local time, and lasts for up to about 45 minutes or so. From Boston, for example, it starts at 11:57 and ends at 12:42.

From the southeast, the occultation begins a little later. From many locations, in fact, it’s already in progress as the Moon rises.

Aldebaran will have moved out from behind the Moon by the time they rise across the rest of the country. Still, except from Hawaii, they’ll be separated by no more than a couple of degrees as they climb into view — the width of your finger held at arm’s length.

The Moon will creep away from Aldebaran during the morning hours as it moves eastward against the background of stars. But the two will still be quite close at first light — just hours after completing their stellar disappearing act.

Tomorrow: a misleading pairing in the sea-goat.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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