The Moon Occults Aldebaran on January 19-20

The visibility of the lunar occultation of the bright star Aldebaran on Jan. 19-20, 2016. Credit: Lunar-Occultations.com

The visibility of the lunar occultation of the bright star Aldebaran on Jan. 19-20, 2016. Credit: Lunar-Occultations.com

The waxing gibbous Moon will pass in front of the bright star Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus, during the evening of January 19-20, 2016. The event will be visible for all of Canada and the continental U.S. as well as northwestern Europe (see map above). During this occultation, Aldebaran will dramatically disappear behind the darkened edge of the Moon. Then it will suddenly reappear nearly an hour later from behind the lit edge. Exact timing is highly dependent on location, but the event begins between 2h and 3h Universal Time on Jan. 20. You can look up the more precise timing for your location at the Lunar-Occultations.com website. The event is easily visible without optical aid, but a pair of binoculars or a small telescope give you a better view.

This is one of a series of lunar occultations of Aldebaran occurring through 2015 and 2016. There’s another on February 16 visible from southeast Asia, southern China, Japan, Hawaii, and the western U.S. There’s another March 14 visible from the Middle East and northern Africa, and yet another visible from parts of North America and Hawaii on April 10. Here’s a video of the reappearance of Aldebaran after a previous occultation:

While you’re waiting for the occultation, have a look at the dazzling Hyades star cluster nearby. This V-shaped group of stars, just west of Aldebaran, makes up the V-shaped head of the celestial bull that is the constellation Taurus. It’s one of the nearest open stars clusters to Earth.

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