Starstruck

This Week’s Night Sky: Bull’s Eye Winks Out

Stars will disappear behind the moon and an asteroid, and the full moon will park itself in a constellation. 

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This week, the moon glides through Taurus—the bull constellation—and will hide the beast’s red stellar eye.


Moon Meets Aldebaran. After nightfall on Tuesday, January 19, look to the southeast for a close encounter between the the waxing gibbous moon and Aldebaran, the red giant that makes the eye of the constellation Taurus.  

The moon will be nestled within the Hyades star cluster, which makes up the face of Taurus, and Aldebaran will appear extremely close to the moon. Lucky observers in Hawaii, northern Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. may even seen the moon eclipse, or occult, the bright star, which will appear to ‘wink out’ as it passes behind the darkened limb of the moon. Watching Aldebaran reappear on the moon’s bright limb will be a bit more challenging because of the glare, so try using binoculars to catch the full show. For the exact local times of the lunar occultation, check out this detailed timetable.

Of course, while the cosmic duo will appear close in our Earthly skies, the moon is some 1.27 light-seconds away, while the red giant lies 66 light-years from Earth.

Asteroid Buzzes Beehive.  Telescope users on Thursday will get a rare treat as asteroid 115 Thyra makes a close pass of the famed Beehive star cluster, eclipsing a faint star in the process.

The 70-kilometer wide Thyra shines only at 9.9 magnitude, but will appear to cover the slightly brighter 9.0 magnitude star that’s visible next to the Beehive cluster in the constellation Cancer, which will be visible in the east at night.

According to the Sky and Telescope website, stargazers will have to be quick because the entire stellar eclipse will last less than seven seconds. During the eclipse, the brightness of the star will drop by at least 1 full magnitude. The show should be quite visible through backyard telescopes anywhere from southern New Jersey through San Diego. Check here for detailed charts and exact local eclipse times.

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On Thursday, an asteroid will pass by the bright open cluster called the Beehive, nestled within the constellation Cancer, the crab.


Full Moon Line-Up. After darkness falls on Saturday, the full moon will park itself within the constellation Cancer. Look above the moon for Castor and Pollux, Gemini’s brilliant twin stars. To the moon’s right, the bright star Procyon will dominate the tiny constellation Canis Minor.

Clear skies!

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter, Facebook, and his website.

 

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