The Moon has a lot to offer us this year, including lunar occultations (when an object, such as the Moon, appears to move in front of another, blocking it from view) and several conjunctions (when two astronomical objects, likes planets, appear close together in the sky). If you want to make the most of your summer stargazing, we recommend escaping to an Astrotourism Town in country WA and enjoying an unspoilt view of the sky.

15th February: Lunar conjunction with Jupiter

On 15th February, the moon is a beautiful waxing crescent — and it’s visible in conjunction with the king of the planets, Jupiter, all evening. The pair are sitting together in the constellation of Aries. For best visibility, look north-west around 7.45pm. This conjunction is a good one for naked-eye stargazing or viewing with a pair of binoculars. You’ll be able to follow the conjunction until the moon sets at 10.29pm and Jupiter follows a few minutes behind.

Check out the image from Stellarium above to get an idea of what to look for with the conjunction of Jupiter and February’s moon. To find out more about what to see in the night sky, grab a copy of the latest Astronomy Australia almanac at Stargazers Club WA.

When and where to look: 7.40pm, 15th February in the north-western sky.

18th February: Lunar occultation of the star, Elnath

Three days later, on the 18th, February’s moon blesses us again — this time with an occultation of the star Elnath. An occultation is when an object, such as the moon, appears to move in front of another, blocking it from view (like with a solar eclipse, when the moon appears to block the sun), and Elnath is visible in our night sky from around 7.45pm.

Also known as Beta Tauri, Elnath is around 700 times the luminosity of our sun, but because it’s approximately 134 light years from Earth, it is only the second-brightest star in the constellation of Taurus. At 10.22pm (AWST), the star will appear to vanish behind the moon, and to appreciate this conjunction fully, we recommend a pair of binoculars.

The star will appear to disappear into the dark limb of the Moon. This will make it easier to see, rather than when it reappears just after 11.35pm from the bright limb of the Moon.

When to look: The occultation of the moon and Elnath starts at 10.22pm on 18th February, but it’s best to start watching from about 10pm. The star will begin to reappear at 11.35pm.

Which direction to look: Look to the north-western sky.

Something Interesting:

The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) exists to encourage, promote and facilitate the observation of occultations and eclipses, as well as providing predictions for occultations of stars by the moon and occultations of stars by asteroids and planets. Check out the Trans Tasman Occultation Alliance (IOTA’s Australasian section) for info on occultation observing across New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific.

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There’s always something interesting happening in the night sky and country WA is the best place to catch all the action.