Thursday, August 9, 2012


Eclipses, Transits, Blue Moons, Supermoons - 2012 has it all.

Add an occultation to the list.  This is when the Moon or a planet goes in front of something else (a star, other planet).  I have only seen three of these in my life (compared to nine lunar eclipses).  So the rarity of these is way up there. 

On Monday August 13 the Moon will occult (go in front of) the planet Venus.  The good news is we'll see it from the Cincinnati area (and across the country west of us).  The bad news is that it will happen during the daytime.  The main event will be between 4:41-4:42 PM EDT.  That's all the time it will take for the Moon to cover Venus. 

To find it, look west at 4:15pm for the waning crescent moon.  You might just barely be able to make it out in the afternoon skyglow.  If you have eagle eyes, see if you can see a dot to the upper left of the Moon.  That's Venus.  In the spring I was able to find Venus in the daytime sky with the naked eye - when the Moon was nearby as a reference. 

Then at 4:30pm get out your telescopes and aim them at upper left part of the Moon.  You should be able to see Venus there as well.  It will look like a little half moon in a telescope (it goes through phases too).  In apparent size, Venus will be dwarfed by the huge-looking, much closer Moon.  Then watch as the Moon gets closer and closer until... occultation.

Unfortunately in Cincinnati we won't be able to see Venus pop out the other side because the Moon will have set by then.  So tell people on the west coast about it and they'll see both the entry and exit of Venus behind the Moon.

Enjoy the Lunar Occultation of Venus.