Tuesday, January 21, 2020
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Lunar occultation of Venus occurred today

You may have noticed in the sky right before sunrise these past few days that the crescent moon has been between two very bright planets: Venus and Jupiter.


Venus, the waning crescent moon, and Jupiter (right), over Salt Lake City Thursday morning (NASA)

An occultation is an astronomical event in which the moon passes in front of a star or planet, and that’s what happened in the skies over the Pacific Ocean today. The actual conjunction of Venus and the moon, where the Earth and Venus formed a line that came closest to the center of the moon’s disc, occurred at 12:34 PM Eastern Standard Time, just after noon.

A lunar occultation of Saturn and Pluto will occur on February 2, but the moon will pass in front of those planets during daylight hours, so it will be impossible to view those occultations.

This is not such a rare event, since the planets all lie on the ecliptic and the moon is never far from that arc in its orbit. Occultations of Saturn will occur again on March 1 and 29, and again on April 25. But Venus, the brightest “star” in our sky, won’t be hidden by the moon’s disc again until December 29.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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