Tonight – February 15, 2016 – the moon shines close to the star Aldebaran, brightest light in the constellation Taurus, for a portion of the night. The sky chart above shows the moon and Aldebaran as twosome appears at mid-northern North American latitudes on the evening of February 15.
Their closeness to one another will vary worldwide, but even so, Aldebaran will be the closest bright star to the moon on this night, no matter where you are on the globe.
In fact, if you’re in just the right place, you can actually watch the moon occult – pass in front of – Aldebaran. Aldebaran will disappear behind the dark side of the waxing gibbous moon and reappear on the moon’s illuminated side.
Tonight’s occultation is visible in its entirety during the nighttime hours from much of the Pacific Ocean and Hawaii. The far West Coast of the United States sees only the beginning of the occultation because Aldebaran will set before the occultation ends. We give the occultation times for two localities in local time, so no time conversion is necessary:
Honolulu, Hawaii (February 15, 2016)
Occultation begins: 11:09 p.m. local time
Occultation ends: 11:45 p.m. local time
Los Angeles, California (February 16, 2016)
Occultation begins: 1:05 a.m local time
Aldebaran sets: 1:36 a.m. local time
The occultation also takes place during the daylight hours on February 16 in southeast Asia, China and Japan. The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) gives the occultation times for numerous localities in Universal Time. Click here to find out how to convert Universal Time to your local time.
At present, we’re in the midst of an oocultation series of the star Aldebaran. Read more about the occultation series of the star Aldebaran below.
This ruddy star depicts the Bull’s eye in the zodiacal constellation Taurus the Bull. Can you see its reddish color in the moon’s glare?
Occultation series of the star Aldebaran. A little over a year ago, the first of a series of 49 monthly lunar occultations of Aldebaran began on January 29, 2015. This series will finally conclude on September 3, 2018. An occultation series of Aldebaran always starts in the polar regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
After the initial occultation on January 29, 2015, each subsequent occultation will occur farther and farther south on Earth’s globe, until reaching its southernmost point midway through the occultation series. The southernmost lunar occultation of Aldebaran will happen on August 25, 2016. Only far-northern regions of the Southern Hemisphere near the equator will be able to witness this southernmost occultation. Then the series will move northward again, until the concluding occultation in the Arctic regions on September 3, 2018.
These Aldebaran occultation series repeat in cycles of 18.6 years. The last series featured 48 lunar occultations from August 8, 1996 to February 14, 2000. The next series will present 48 occultations from August 18, 2033 to February 23, 2037.
Bottom line: Enjoy the close pairing of the moon and star Aldebaran – brightest light in Taurus the Bull – on the night of February 15, 2016.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.