Watch the Moon Beat a Path Across the Hyades Tonight

Do you see it? The Moon closes in on Aldebaran last October. Image credit and copyright: Frank Tyrlik

Once more, unto the breech…” Ready to brave the February cold and the ongoing arctic polar express? Tonight, North American skywatchers will witness an encore event, as the waxing gibbous Moon crosses the Hyades star cluster and – for a lucky few — occults the bright star Aldebaran.This occultation is number 15 in a current series of 36 of Aldebaran by the Moon, running from January 29th, 2015 to September 12th, 2017. The Moon occults the bright star once for every lunation in 2016, though the event is only visible across a narrow footprint along the surface of the Earth. Tonight’s occultation sees the ‘shadow of the Moon’ cast by +0.9 magnitude Aldebaran cross a wide arc of the northern Pacific. In the United States, the graze line runs from around Seattle Washington to Salt Lake City Utah, down to around Phoenix Arizona. The western U.S. will witness the occultation in the early morning hours centered around 8:00 UT/1:00 AM MST, while Japan and the Far East will catch the event before sunset. The Aleutian Islands will see a spectacular graze of Aldebaran along the limb of the 61% illuminated Moon, low towards the southern horizon.The rest of North America will see the Moon closing in on Aldebaran this evening just before moonset around 1 AM local. But don’t despair, the Moon occults lots of fainter stars as it traverses the Hyades, including +4th magnitude Gamma Tauri and the +3rd magnitude stars Theta Tauri^1 and ^2. Though Aldebaran lies in the direction of the Hyades star cluster, it’s actually 42% closer to the Earth at 65 light years distant. You can find a listing of timings for the ingress and egress for tonight’s event for selected major cities along the U.S. West —> Read More