Descending Moon Occults Uranus

2dec-descending-node   Tuesday December 2nd at 08:34 UT (2:34 pm CST) our Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.

1dec-uranus-moon   Earlier, at 0 UT, the waxing gibbous Moon will occult the outer planet Uranus. The occultation will be visible from parts of northwestern North America including eastern Alaska and western Canada. Depending on your latitude and longitude, and sometime during the evening before – on the 1st, the two may just be close together as this graphic shows. This is a simulated view through a 25 mm eyepiece on my 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope from my home location.

1dec   The Moon and Uranus rise several hours before local sunset time so the two will be well above the horizon by the time the sky darkens. Keep in mind that apparent magnitudes of the two differ by quite a bit. The 9.5 day old waxing gibbous Moon shines at an apparent magnitude of -12.0, compared to Uranus’s 5.7 apparent magnitude. Wait a few nights for the Moon to move further east and the sky may be bright enough to then pick out Uranus with the unaided eye or binoculars.

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

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