Thursday, February 22
A Lunar Eclipse and Two Occultations
The Moon is set to make a few close encounters over the next few days.
On Saturday evening 3rd March it meets the Earth's shadow to produce a Total Lunar Eclipse. If it is clear the plan is to meet up in the Memorial Gardens Cockermouth to observe it from 9:30pm when the Moon will start to dim visibly. Total Eclipse is from about 10:45pm to midnight.
But before that, tomorrow evening Friday 23rd February the Moon encounters the Pleiades (The Seven Sisters or Subaru in Japanese), occulting (passing in front of) part of the cluster starting from about 10:30pm for the next couple of hours. The moon is 1st quarter so it should be good fun seeing the stars wink out as they encounter the unlit part of the Moon. This is a screen shot from Starry Night. Don't expect to see the Pleiades like this though! If you take any pictures, don't forget to bring them along to the meeting on Tuesday.
Then in the early hours of the morning on Friday 2nd March, the Moon makes a close encounter with Saturn. In fact depending on your exact location, you may see part of the planet hidden in what is known as a grazing occultation. This shows what Starry night predicts from Cockermouth at 02:41am. Grazing occultations of stars can be used to map the contours of the Moon as the star winks in and out between the hills and valleys.