Tonight, Tuesday May 13, the Moon began its slow move to occult or black out Saturn around dusk. According to Space.com, the Moon will appear to get nearer to Saturn by a half a degree, or the width of the Moon, every hour until they are only about a degree apart early Wednesday morning on America’s west coast. The glare from the full Moon will make it almost impossible for viewers in the United States to see Saturn, though Saturn will be easily visible if you use a telescope or binoculars, as will many of its moons, and its rings. You can watch the Moon occulting Saturn streaming live by clicking on the last link, below, starting about 6:15 a.m..
The full spectacle of the Moon occulting Saturn, the second largest planet in our galaxy and the sixth one from the sun, won’t be visible with the naked eye in North America, but if you live in the southern hemisphere, in particular in Antarctica, New Zealand or Australia, you will be able to view the event on Wednesday night. Jupiter will appear to glow pale yellow as the Moon seems to get ever nearer to it.
On Wednesday night, May 14, the Moon will be full. The Full Flower Moon, as it’s called, will be the only full month that will occur this month. However, according to the site Earth Sky, the exact moment of the full Moon, about 3:16 p.m. EDT, won’t be visible from North America.
To viewers of the Live Stream of the Moon as it occults the ringed planet, Saturn, and people in Australia and New Zealand, the Moon and Saturn will look as if they’re drawing closer and closer to each other until it will appear as if Saturn disappears behind the Moon for approximately an hour.
When the Moon occults stars, they look as if the “wink out” behind the moon. But, in the case of Saturn, it will look as if the giant planet is setting behind the Moon. Then and hour or so later, it will appear to rise from the other side of the Moon.
A smaller object, like the Moon, can appear to occult or block out a much larger star or planet, like Saturn, if the larger object is actually much further away and appears to be smaller because it is further away. Anothre example of a large object, Regulus, one of the night sky’s brightest stars, being occulted or blacked out, occurred just this past March when a huge asteroid that was 45 miles wide passed in front of it.
When the Moon occults Saturn this Wednesday, temporarily hiding it from sight, if you live in North America and want to see this spectacle, you can fortunately view it streaming live at the link below or other sites. Just this past May 10, was opposite the sun, or in opposition, with Earth in the middle of it and the sun. In April, another planet was in opposition, the Red Planet, Mars. If you live in the southern hemisphere, like in New Zealand or Australia, have a great time viewing of this fascinating event.
Written by: Douglas Cobb