Tomorrow night, Saturday, get set for some of the ultimate in doorstep astronomy you can do- no telescope needed. Every now and again the Moon swings by and even covers a handful of the brightest stars in the evening sky. Face the southeastern horizon around 10 pm and you will see the near full Moon either have a really close encounter with the orange star Antares or even begin to cover it. For most of North America the advancing Moon will slowly go in front of the red giant Antares. When the moon eclipses a star astronomers call it a lunar occultation. In Canada, from west of Winnipeg the show will be over by the time the Moon rises above the horizon. But for most of northwestern and southwestern Ontario, including folks in Toronto should see the entire occultation as the 1st magnitude star winks out behind the Moon starting at 10:44 pm ET and reappearing on the other side of the Moon by 11:29 pm ET.. From Ottawa through Quebec and eastward, the Moon will skirt just underneath Antares in a near miss. Get more detailed local occultation times here.
Beware though that because the Moon is so blinding, you might want to bring out your binoculars to see the show and pick out the star better. It is amazing to think the vast difference in distance these seemingly close sky objects truly are. While the moon is only just shy of 400,000 km from Earth, Antares is 604 light years distant! Something to think about while soaking in this cosmic close encounter above our heads.
Note: Talking about the Hercules constellation this Sunday! So check back…
Tags: Antares, lunar occultation
Posted in Solar System, Stargazing, The Moon, stars | 110 Comments »