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Moon and Aldebaran

December 12, 2016

The bright Moon has a bright companion tonight — at least for most of the night. The Moon will actually pass in front of the companion for a while, blocking it from view.

The companion is Aldebaran, the star that marks the eye of Taurus the bull. It’s close to the lower left of the Moon at sunset. Not long afterward, though, the Moon will cross in front of the star — an event known as an occultation. After an hour or so, Aldebaran will return to view on the other side of the Moon. The timing depends on your location. It happens a little later from the East Coast than from the western states.

The Moon itself is just a day away from full. The full Moon of December is known as the Moon Before Yule. It’s also known as the Long-Night Moon. That’s because it’s in view longer than any other full Moon of the year.

You can think of the full Moon as the opposite of the Sun. At this time of year, the Sun moves low across the south for those of us in the northern hemisphere. It’s also in view for the shortest period of time — as little as eight or nine hours from northern latitudes.

The full Moon does just the opposite of that. It soars high across the sky. And since it’s in view from sunset to sunrise, there’s a lot of time to enjoy the view — anywhere from 14 to 16 hours for most of the United States.

So enjoy all of those hours of moonlight over the next few nights — and tonight’s occultation of the eye of the bull.


Script by Damond Benningfield


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