More Power To The Moon Or How To See Aldebaran In Daylight

The moon was 2-days-old last Sunday when I caught it among the clouds and power lines. Credit: Bob King

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.

A small to modest-sized telescope will show Aldebaran perched half a moon diameter to the north of the moon around 2:45 p.m. this Sunday afternoon.  If you look later, the moon will have drifted to the left; if earlier, the moon sits to the right of the star. Stellarium

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.

The view Sunday evening showing the moon now 1.5 degrees east of the Hyades star cluster in Taurus. Stellarium

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.

This map shows the area where the moon occults or covers Aldebaran this Sunday, Feb. 5. Anyone living between the white curved lines will see Aldebaran covered, while observers on the line will witness the star grazing the edge of the moon. The red dotted line means the event happens in daylight; deep blue show where the occultation happens in evening twilight. Click to get a list of cities and times. Credit: Occult 4.0

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!