February 19, 2020

Astro-Vid of the Week- Captured: Venus Occults a Naked Eye Star

Our chart of the passage of Lambda Aquarii behind Venus on April 16th.

Created using Stellarium.

We love it when backyard observers rise to the challenge. We wrote recently about the prospects for catching the occultation of the +3.7 magnitude star Lambda Aquarii by the planet Venus on the morning of April 16th. Most occultations involve the Moon or asteroids, but very occasionally, a planetary disk will also blot out a distant star.

Though the occultation occurred in daytime skies for most of the Earthward facing side of the planet, a thin sliver of the world around the region of New Zealand and eastern Australia was favorably placed during the occultation at dawn. Two Australian-based observers did indeed nab it, including this outstanding capture by Jonathan Bradshaw from the Samford Valley Observatory near Brisbane, Australia:

You can see a gibbous Venus being racked by turbulence low to the horizon in the video, and the star popping out on the dark limb of the planet at around 0:18. This is due primarily to the motion of Venus and the Earth around the Sun, and you’ll note that unlike the quick reappearance of a star on the limb of the Moon, the reappearance of Lambda Aquarii from behind Venus is a relatively slow and dare we say stately affair, at least in the world of stellar occultations.

Needless to say, such an event is a tough and rare capture. For example, no one caught the occultation of Regulus by Asteroid 163 Erigone last month due to weather, although it passed over New York City! And speaking of Regulus, you can witness Venus occult it as well on the morning of October 1st, 2044… and it once again favors Australia!

Again, congrats to Jonathan Bradshaw and all who completed this difficult feat of visual athletics!

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