Lunar Occultation: 3 Planets Behind the Moon (Download PDF)

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In September 2017, moon will shortly block Venus, then Mars and then Mercury in the sky in an event called a lunar occultation. Occultation occurs when moon passes in front of a celestial object.

Image of Lunar Occultation: 3 Planets behind the Moon

Image of Lunar Occultation: 3 Planets Behind the Moon

Image of Lunar Occultation: 3 Planets behind the Moon

  • Duration of a lunar occultation depends on the body being blocked and location of observation point on Earth.

  • Solar eclipses is an example of the moon occulting the Sun.

  • Lunar occultations’ are beautiful- in 2007 when the moon occulted Saturn.

  • The moon will also interrupt the light from Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, a few hours after it passes Venus.

Last and Next Occurrence

  • Last time the moon slid past three planets within 24 hours was on March 5, 2008

  • Moon then occluded Mercury, Venus and Neptune

  • Next time such occultation of 3 planets would be in 2036.

  • “It’s almost like it’s a dance in the sky, ” said Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. “It’s going to pass its partners. ”

Locations for Occultation Viewing

Only certain parts of the world able to see particular occultation-

  • Venus occultation was most visible in Australia, New Zealand and parts of the Southeast Pacific

  • Regulus occultation was most visible in India, the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia.

  • Mars occultation was most visible in Hawaii and parts of Mexico.

  • Mercury occultation was most visible over parts of the Pacific Ocean.

  • The moon and Venus are brightest and easiest to see. Regulus is next best visible bit below Venus. Mercury and Mars will be the toughest to spot since they are very near the horizon.

How Are Occultation Useful?

Occultations are useful for scientific study of solar system:

  • Kuiper Airborne Observatory discovered faint rings of Uranus, when it passed in front of a distant star in 1977.

  • This year, astronomers observed several occultations of a distant star by a space rock called 2014 MU69, floating about a billion miles away from Pluto. The blinks provided the researchers with important information about the shape of the 20-mile wide space chunk, which will be the next flyby target for the New Horizons probe.

- Published/Last Modified on: September 27, 2017

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