Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It is shining in the West!

No! This is not an election advertisement! It is an advertisement for the god of good fortune Sukra or the goddess of love Venus (If you believe in Gods!!!!). Either way you should be interested. Venus has been shining and shining for the past few months imploring you to look at her/him! You can not step out after sunset and NOT see it in the western sky. There is something more to Venus than just being bright these days. What’s that? Let’s find out.

Planet Venus has dared to let the sun go ahead and has venturing further and further away in the sky from the sun and finally it will stop for a well earned rest on August 20th, well that’s another story to tell about the phenomenon called eastern elongation. But Venus seems to be enjoying this independence from the sun right now. It glows brightest now!

After few days its all set to date Moon. Looks like an interesting event, Venus dating a crescent moon. Not even dating, trying to hide behind moon, away from the glaring lights and cameras of news channels. But even these probing eyes of reporters and sting operations would not stop it meeting Moon on 16th afternoon. This event in astronomy is called occultation. Remember, sun hiding behind the moon? You are right, during solar eclipse it does that, technically solar eclipse is an occultation. An occultation is an event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer. Last time it happened with venus for India was on June 17 2007. This event is not rare one but it sure is an event to watch as bright Venus slips behind the moon.

Image taken by SPACE members just before Venus went behind moon in early hours of Nov. 10, 2004

Now why this event occurs? As we all know that Moon goes around the Earth and during it journey it comes in front of rest of the celestial bodies. Sun, planets, stars to name a few. As a result we have all sorts of occultations. As moon moves quite fast in the skies, it comes back to the same phase in about 29.5 days, it stands a good chance to occult the planets and stars. A planet being hidden by moon is not a common event as there are only few bright naked eye planets, even then it usually hides Venus behind at least once in a year.

Timings for Delhi
16 May, 2010
Disappearance                         15 50 38 IST
Reappearance                          17 18 31 IST

For timings in rest of the major cities in delhi, please visit SPACE occultation blog at

It is a daytime event. Last time its happened during night/eve but next two events are daytime and one has to wait till 2036 to see this event in night.

Next three events
June 30, 2011              Daytime event
Feb 26, 2014               Daytime event
Sep 16, 2036               NightTime event

How to see the event?
As the event is happening in the daytime, one can not see the venus going behind or coming from behind the moon but it will be site worth to watch once the sun has set and Moon-Venus pair shining in the western skies.

Event for Amateur Astronomers
Amateur Astronomers can try out photographing the event as well seeing the venus in broad daylight with help of data available for the venus and Moon, but its not going to be easy.

For complete data about timings read THIS POST

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