A Challenging Daytime Occultation of Venus for Europe

Do you see it? I 2% illuminated waning 'Old Moon,' 24+ hours from New. The April 6th Moon will be about as thin. Image credit: Dave Dickinson

Sometimes, the Universe seems bent on hiding the most glorious of events right in plain sight. Just a such an event occurs next week, when the slender waning crescent Moon occults the planet Venus for observers across Europe, the United Kingdom and northern Asia.Now, the bad news. This event occurs after sunrise on the morning of April 6th, while Venus sits just 16 degrees west of the Sun. The rest of the world will see a very close pairing of the two. New Moon for lunation 1154 occurs at 11:24 UT on April 7th, meaning the Moon will be a slim 2% illuminated crescent during the occultation, just 27 hours prior to New.Now, seeing such a thin fingernail Moon isn’t impossible; Rob Sparks and Mike Weasner spotted a near-record thin Moon just 13 hours and 48 minutes after New on the evening of January 1st, 2014.This is occultation 1 of 2 for Venus by the Moon for 2016, and the first of 9 for naked eye planets in the year overall. Unfortunately, this won’t occur under dark skies, like the February 16th, 2016 occultation of Venus for northwestern North America.During the April 6th event, Venus is 96% illuminated with a 10” disk, shining at magnitude -3.9. It is possible to see Venus in the daytime, if you know exactly where to look. Ironically, though the visually larger nearby crescent Moon makes a good guide, Venus is actually intrinsically brighter.Hunting slender Moons is a fun monthly pursuit. The Muslim calendar is exclusively based on the lunar cycle, and traditionally relies on the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon to begin a new calendar month. Latitude, the seasonal angle of the ecliptic, and the relative angle of the Moon’s orbit (we’re just now coming off a shallow <a target="_blank" href="http://www.universetoday.com/122263/a-minor-lunar-standstill-for-2015/" —> Read More