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Moon hides Aldebaran on March 4

From the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean – during the evening hours tonight – you can watch the star Aldebaran disappear behind the moon’s dark edge, then reappear on its illuminated side.

Tonight – March 4, 2017 – people around the world will see the rather wide waxing crescent moon shining close to Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull. From the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean, the moon more than comes close to Aldebaran. You can actually watch Aldebaran disappear behind the dark side of the moon and then reappear on the moon’s illuminated side during the evening hours tonight.

This event is called a lunar occultation of Aldebaran.

Worldwide map via the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) shows where the occultation of Aldebaran takes place. Everyplace in between the solid white lines can see the occultation in a nighttime sky on the evening of March 4, 2017. The short blue lines to the left of the solid white lines depict evening twilight, and the area in between the red lines represents daytime.

The worldwide map above shows where the occultation takes place. Click here for the occultation times for numerous localities in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean in Universal Time. Remember to convert Universal Time to your local time.

How do I translate Universal Time to my time?

For your convenience, we have some local times listed below. These occultation times are in local time on March 4, 2017:

New York City, New York
Aldebaran disappears: 11:10 p.m. EST
Aldebaran reappears: 11:31 p.m. EST

St. Louis, Missouri
Aldebaran disappears: 9:52 p.m. CST
Aldebaran reappears: 10:42 p.m. CST

Denver, Colorado
Aldebaran disappears: 8:33 p.m. MST
Aldebaran reappears: 9:33 p.m. MST

Seattle, Washington
Aldebaran disappears: 7:21 p.m. PST
Aldebaran reappears: 7:50 p.m. PST

Whenever the moon travels through the constellation Taurus, it can swing anywhere from 5o south to 5o north of the ecliptic – Earth’s orbital plane projected onto the constellations of the zodiac. When the moon reaches a southern extreme, it occults – covers over – Aldebaran once every month, for months on end. When the moon reaches a northern extreme, it then occults the stars of the Pleiades cluster for months on end. That’s because Aldebaran lodges to the south of the ecliptic, while the Pleiades star cluster resides to the north of it, as shown on the sky chart of Taurus below.

Orion's Belt, at the lower left, always points in the direction of  the constellation Taurus the Bull. The star Aldebaran resides to the south of the ecliptic and the Pleiades star cluster to the north of the ecliptic.

Orion’s Belt, at the lower left, always points in the direction of the constellation Taurus the Bull. The star Aldebaran resides to the south of the ecliptic and the Pleiades star cluster to the north of the ecliptic.

For the rest of this year, the moon will occult the star Aldebaran every month. The moon started this series of 49 monthly occultations of Aldebaran on January 29, 2015, and the series will continue until September 3, 2018. To watch any one of these occultations of Aldebaran, you have to be at the right spot on the Earth’s surface.

About seven and one-half years from now, the moon will reach a northern extreme in the constellation Taurus. At that juncture, the moon will occult Alcyone, brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster, for months on end. That’ll happen on a monthly basis from September 5, 2023 to July 7, 2029. Something to look forward to!

In the meantime, we’re hoping for some awesome photos from the EarthSky community of the March 4, 2017 occultation. Post at EarthSky Facebook or submit your image to us here.

Bottom line: On the night of March 4, 2017, let the waxing moon show you the star Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull.

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Taurus? Here’s your constellation

Bruce McClure

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