Friday, May 7, 2010

Moon to occult Venus in on the 16th

Occultation June 07 by Tom

As Gadi pointed out, on May 16th the Moon will slide in front of Venus in our skies and blot out the Goddess of Love for about one and a half hours. We are well placed here in Israel to see this celestial event , as our friends and relatives in the US will miss it, as all the action will happen below their horizon.

What I really like about this even is it will happen in our daytime sky, but still by visible for those of us who know where to look. The naked eye will do, but as usual, a pair of binoculars will help.

As it turns out it is often possible to see Venus and sometimes other bright planets and stars in the daytime. You need very clear skies (as we are blessed here in Israel this time of year with) and the other trick is, you have to know exactly where to look. That is not as easy as it sounds when you are searching the bright blue sky for a tiny spec of light. That is what makes this occultation  so much fun, as finding the crescent moon in the day sky is much simpler, and Venus will be right there.

So on Sunday morning the 16th go out and find the young moon! Actually that will be a challenge too, as the Moon will only be 2.4 days old and pretty skinny. It will also be less than 30 degrees from the Sun. A good strategy is to stand somewhere in the shade, where the Sun is blocked out, but the Moon not.

If you are not used to finding the Moon in the daytime, you can practice between now and next Sunday, as the moon is out every morning. This is always a fun exercise , even when not preparing for Venus to disappear. You can impress your friends on your way to work or school pointing out the moon in the bright  morning light. (I am always surprise by the number of people who think you can't see the moon in the daytime).

For example tomorrow morning (on your way to shul) at 8:15am the last quarter Moon will be pretty easy to find. Just turn due south and look about about 1/2 way up the sky (50 degrees) and there it is.

Then each following morning at the same time the moon will be about a hand span closer to the sun (and skinnier) making it more challenging.

For those of you who plan on photographing the event, next Wed will be a great opportunity. Then the Moon will be about 2 days before new, and thus the same size an brightness as it will be on the following Sunday, but on the other side of the Sun.

Details for next Sunday morning: The Moon and Venus will be high (at 67 degrees) in the east by southeast. At 11:36am the dark side of the Moon will slip across the face of Venus. It will remain covered until 13:05 when it will reappear on the lit crescent side.

You can even contribute to real science by carefully timing the even and reporting to The International Occultation Timing Association The simplest way to do this is with any kind of video recorder. Full information at the site.

Here are some pictures I snapped back in June 07 of a similar event with Gadi and the kids:


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