November 20, 2019

Astronomy Video Of the Week: An Occultation Weekend


Beta Capricorni (arrowed, click to enlarge) moments before it was occulted by the Moon on October 12th, 2013. (Photo by Author).

After a rainy Florida summer, our astronomical fortunes finally changed this past weekend. Two fine bright star occultations graced our skies on Friday night and Saturday evening. These are always fun “now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t” kinds of events to witness, as the Moon abruptly covers a distant star. Grazing events can be especially dramatic, as starlight can be seen winking in and out along the valleys along the lunar limb in a dramatic fashion. And some real science can be gathered by such events as well, as close double star companions can reveal themselves as the star lingers and winks out in a step-wise fashion.

The Friday night event involved the occultation of Rho Sagittarii by the just-past first quarter Moon, and served as a good “wring-out” for our technique and gear that had been sidelined all summer. We thought we got better footage of Saturday night’s occultation of Beta Capricorni by the waxing gibbous Moon, though creeping Florida moisture took our drive motor out of action;

Said drive motor recovered well after a night in our warm garage. By the way, the signal you hear on the video is WWV radio running out Fort Collins, Colorado, which wasn’t affected by the ongoing U.S. government shutdown. This puts a precise timing on the video of the event, as well as an idea of when the occultation is about to occur while recording. It gets busy in the moments leading up to an event!

Did you catch it? Be sure to let us know. There are still several bright star occultations by the Moon left for 2013 as well as the final occultations of the star Spica by the Moon in November and December.

Don’t miss ‘em!

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