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Sky Watch: The Moon Covers The Eye of the Bull

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Sky Watch: The Moon Covers The Eye of the Bull

On Saturday night, March 4th, the Moon will cover over the star Aldebaran, the bright orange “eye of the Bull” in the constellation Taurus. Astronomers refer to such a stellar eclipse as this as an occultation.

Most of the United States will be in the viewing zone, the exceptions being northernmost portions of the Northern Plains, the U.P. of Michigan and much of northern New York and New England.

The Moon will be a 44 percent waxing crescent, and Aldebaran will disappear behind the Moon’s dark (left) edge, a sight that should be evident with the naked eye, though binoculars or a telescope will certainly enhance the view.

Aldebaran will reappear from behind the Moon’s bright edge. The occultation is an early-to-mid evening event for the West and a midnight/early morning event for the East.

For the West, the Moon will ride high in the southwest sky. In the East, the moon will appear much lower in the sky – as low as 15 degrees above the west-northwest horizon (your clenched fist held at arm’s length measures about 10 degrees). The moon will set at around a quarter to one, early Sunday morning). Care should be taken to assure an you have a clear, unobstructed view.

Here are local standard times for ten selected locations:

Los Angeles:
Aldebaran Disappears 7:08 p.m. PST
Aldebaran Reappears  8:27 p.m. PST

Seattle:
Aldebaran Disappears 7:21 p.m. PST
Aldebaran Reappears 7:50 p.m. PST

Denver:
Aldebaran Disappears 8:33 p.m. MST
Aldebaran Reappears 9:33 p.m. MST

Chicago:
Aldebaran Disappears 9:57 p.m. CST
Aldebaran Reappears 10:33 p.m. CST

Austin:
Aldebaran Disappears 9:44 p.m. CST
Aldebaran Reappears 10:52 p.m. CST

Atlanta:
Aldebaran Disappears: 10:56 p.m. EST
Aldebaran Reappears 11:52 p.m. EST

Miami:
Aldebaran Disappears 11:03 p.m. EST
Aldebaran Reappears 12:02 a.m.* EST

Pittsburgh:
Aldebaran Disappears 11:03 p.m. EST
Aldebaran Reappears 11:36 p.m. EST

Washington D.C.:
Aldebaran Disappears 11:04 p.m. EST
Aldebaran Reappears 11:39 p.m. EST

New York, NY:
Aldebaran Disappears 11:10 p.m. EST
Aldebaran Reappears 11:31 p.m. EST

* Denotes Sunday, March 5th

Click here to see a a map depicting the viewing zone as well as a listing of hundreds of locations providing the Universal/Greenwich Mean Times of the star’s disappearance and reappearance.

The most exciting part of this event is viewing Aldebaran as it appears to skim the Moon’s limb. The star will be grazingly occulted at the northern limit line, extending from southern Vancouver Island, east along the border separating British Columbia from Washington State, then going east-southeast from northern Montana to the central Great Lakes, finally moving out over the Atlantic Ocean at the coast of Rhode Island south of Newport.

A detailed view with maps of various sections of the graze line can be found here.

The line is actually a path no more than a couple of miles wide, within which telescope users can see Aldebaran vanish and reappear several times as the mountainous limb of the Moon glides by. Observers north of the path will see a near miss.

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