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Occultation’s and close encounters of Stars and Planets by the Moon
During its orbit the Moon can pass very close to some of the brighter stars and bright planets often producing a conjunction which is enjoyable to see. Occasionally though it gets even better when it actually occults (covers) the object. 2017 has a number of such events involving the Moon and stars but there are no bright planets occulted at night this year although there is a daylight ocultation of Mercury later in the year. Most of them will be challenging in twilight or almost full moonlight but they are worth trying for either with binoculars or a small telescope if you have one.
In NightScenes as a rule I always select stars brighter than magnitude 4 so that everyone stands a chance of spotting them and potentially seeing the event using binoculars or a small telescope. All times given are approximations, always begin observing at least ten minutes before the start. Note that, unless noted, all the times are shown for the two extremes of the occultation path across the UK and Ireland. The northern limit is set for the top of mainland Scotland whilst the southern limits are set for southern England and southern Ireland. The rest of Great Britain and Ireland falls between them. D = Disappearance and R = Reappearance. Some of the events may also be visible for Europe but the emphasis here is mainly on the UK/ Ireland.
Occasionally I am asked why I don’t put up wide field finder charts for the occultations. They involve the 2nd brightest object in the sky aka the MOON so I take the simple view that if you can’t find the Moon in the sky then don’t bother trying for something like an occultation!
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