The moon’s always up to something. We’ll watch it wax this week from crescent to better than half, all the while moving to the east as it orbits the Earth. After last night’s pleasing double conjunction with the planets Venus and Mars, all’s quiet on the sky stage until this Sunday, Feb. 5. That day, if the sky is clear, you can use a modest telescope (4-6-inch) to see Taurus the Bull’s brightest star, Aldebaran, smack in the middle of the day.
It’s not often we get an easy path to seeing a star other than the sun during daylight hours. But whenever the moon passes by in conjunction, as it will do on Sunday, we can use it to point to this red-orange gem.
Around 2:45 p.m. CST (3:45 p.m. Eastern, 1:45 p.m. Mountain and 12:45 p.m. Pacific), the waxing gibbous moon will pass about one-half its diameter immediately south (below) Aldebaran. If you have a scope, focus it on the moon around that time and slide half a moon length to the north. If the sky’s haze-free, you should have no problem seeing a fiery orange spark of light — Aldebaran.
Later that evening, as the moon continues moving to the east, it will leave the star behind. By nightfall in the U.S. Midwest, the two will be separated by 1.5 °or three full moon diameters.
For Florida from Jacksonville south to northern South America, the moon will occult or block the star completely from view that afternoon. But from Europe, the moon will cover the star in a dark sky for a more dramatic event.
For a complete list of cities and times, click here. The times show are UT or Universal Time — be sure to subtract 5 hours for Eastern, 6 for Central, 7 for Mountain and 8 for Pacific). More power to the moon!