Sunday, February 17, 2013
Occultation of Jupiter, Monday 18 February, 2013
On the evening of Monday, February 18, the Moon will occult (cover) Jupiter in Southern Australia (everywhere else sees it very close). It will be quite spectacular with Jupiter's Moons being covered by the dark side of the Moon just before Jupiter.
While the sight of Jupiter winking out behind the dark edge of the Moon will be spectacular to the unaided eye, this is far better seen in binoculars, or better in a small telescope.
As a bonus, many places will see the occultation of the 5th magnitude star Omega Tauri before the main event.
The event does occur around 11 pm or so (earlier in WA which has the best views again). It's pretty easy to see where it is happening (just look for the Moon). Note Ganymede disappears before Jupiter and the other Moons after.
|Place||Disappears Dark Limb||Reappears Bright Limb|
|Adelaide||23:00 ACDST||23:37 ACDST|
|Hobart||23:21 AEDST||00:13 (19th) AEDST|
|Melbourne||23:33 AEDST||00:10 (19th) AEDST|
|Perth||19:39 AWST||20:45 AWST|
More cities and towns can be found at the IOTA site (UT times only).
At mid graze/occulation, the Moon will be quite low to the horizon, so if you are using a telescope, make sure it has a clear horizon and can travel down reasonably well. It is advisable to set up and practise on the Moon and Jupiter a day or so before the event, so you are familiar with your telescope set-up.
Set up at least half an hour ahead of time so that you can be sure everything is working well and you can watch the entire event comfortably (trying to focus your telescope on Jupiter moments before the occultation will cause a lot of unnecessary stress). Also, setting up early allows your eyes to adapt to the darkness.
If you are using binoculars, try leaning them on a fence or the back of a chair so that the don't wobble all over the place. Better yet, see if you can get a binocular mount, you won't regret it.
This is also an opportunity to see Jupiter in the daylight. Using the Moon as your guide, you should be easily able to see Jupiter with the unaided eye 15 minutes before Sunset, and 30 minutes before Sunset using binoculars. Make sure the Sun is hidden behind something big like a wall to avoid accidental exposure to the sun.
More posts on seeing planets in daylight (with hints and tricks), are here.
For Victorians, the Moon really was reddened by the smoke for a number of serious bush fires around the state and in one case perilously close to Melbourne.