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Ephemeris Extra – Occultation of Aldebaran visible from the Upper Peninsula and the tip of northern lower Michigan

July 8, 2018 Comments off

In the early morning hours of July 10th the very northern part of the IPR listening area will have a chance to see the last occultation of the bright star Aldebaran for at last 15 years. An occultation is where the Moon in this case passes in front of or occults a planet or a star. In astronomy occult means to hide. The event is an occultation. There is no black magic involved. It will be a grazing event, with Aldebaran popping in and out of view at the mountains and valleys at the southern edge of the Moon along a line running south of Mackinaw City and across the eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula.

Occultation of Aldebaran map

The Straits of Mackinac area showing the green southern graze line of the Occultation of Aldebaran. Credit Map Google Earth, Graze line by Occult 4.

It’s a clear miss for the Interlochen area, with the star skirting the Moon at it’s 5 o’clock position. The time of the event will be near 4:38 a.m. with the maximum time of the event increasing from west to east at nearly 2,000 miles an hour. At that time the Moon and Aldebaran will be low in the east-northeast and only 7 degrees above the horizon.

Moon and Aldebaran finder chart

Location of the Moon and Aldebaran in the sky at 4:38 a.m. July 10, 2018 from the Interlochen/Traverse City area.

More information on this occultation from Sky and Telescope is here.
This will be the last occultation of Aldebaran visible from around here for the next 15 years. However starting in 5 years there will be a monthly series of occultations of the bright star Regulus, and the next year a series of occultations of the star Spica will begin. That’s just for the Moon with bright stars. The Moon occults many dimmer stars a month. A very important field of occultations is the observation of occultations of asteroids and Kuiper belt objects to discover their size, shape, any satellites and whether they have rings. Go to the International Occultation Timing Association https://occultations.org for more information.

Hat tip to Jerry Dobek, Director of the Joseph H. Rogers Observatory

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