Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Venus, meet Moon; Moon, meet Venus

The thin, bright crescent moon was beautiful enough. But moments after arriving at the pool for Masters swim practice this morning, my teammates and I rubbed our bleary eyes, doubting that what we witnessed in the sky was really happening. With the blessing of a clear, dark sky at 5 a.m. this morning, some of us saw a rare, romantic, astronomical encounter, visible in the dark only from the Western U.S. As the moon slowly descended in the sky, it appeared to "kiss" Venus, which was behind it. I later learned that the event is called the "Moon's Occultation of Venus."

Here is the best YouTube VIDEO of the encounter I've found so far today; it was shot from Oregon, where the sky was a bit lighter than down here in Northern California:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93LrFStydEg

More detail in this excerpt from
http://www.planetary.org/:

Moon Occults Venus:
This has nothing to do with the occult, but does involve darkness. If you live in western North America, then in the pre-dawn of April 22, you can witness a rare occultation of Venus by the crescent Moon -- that is, the Moon passes in front of Venus. Venus and the Moon will be very low to the horizon in the East, so you’ll need a clear view to the horizon, particularly for the beginning of the occultation. By the time Venus reappears, the Moon and Venus will be higher up in the East. The occultation (when the Moon will pass in front of Venus) will start a little after 5:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Exact timing depends on your location. Venus will reappear about an hour later, shortly before the Sun rises for most locations. But, since the Moon and Venus are both extremely bright, they’ll still be quite visible shortly before dawn. Even if you don’t live in the ideal spot for viewing, you still can check out Venus near the Moon before dawn. And, of course, check out other planets.

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