Watch the Moon Occult Vesta and Aldebaran This Weekend

The Moon occults Aldebaran last lunation on March 14th as seen from India. Image credit and copyright: Rajneesh Parashar

So, did you miss yesterday’s occultation of Venus by the Moon? It was a tough one, to be sure, as the footpath for the event crossed Europe and Asia in the daytime. Watch that Moon, though, as it crosses back into the evening sky later this week, and occults (passes in front of) the bright star Aldebaran for eastern North America and, for Hawaii-based observers, actually covers the brightest of the asteroids, 4 Vesta.These events are all part of a cycle of occultations spanning 2016.When we left off last week, the Moon was headed towards New, which occurs today at 11:25 UT, marking the start of lunation 1154. We did indeed manage to spy Venus juuuust off of the limb of the razor thin Moon from our current base camp in Jimena de la Frontera Spain at sunrise, less than 29 hours from New. Observers based in Hawaii should be able to spot the waxing crescent Moon without optical aid on the evening of April 7th, and North America and Europe will see the Moon return to the evening skies on the next evening at 32 and 38 hours old, respectively.Follow that MoonFirst stop: the Moon occults 4 Vesta for observers based in Hawaii at dusk, centered on 3:42 Universal Time (UT) on April 9th. The Moon is 4% illuminated, while 4 Vesta shines at magnitude +8. Notably, Vesta can reach magnitude +5, and is the only asteroid visible to the naked eye under dark skies as it nears opposition, as next occurs on January 18th, 2017. If you haven’t laid eyes on Vesta before with binoculars or a telescope, this weekend is a good time to try, using the nearby Moon as a guide. North America will see a close two degree pass on the same evening.Key —> Read More