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Moon Invades Saturn This Weekend

While skywatchers may not get the same clear view of Saturn like this Hubble image, small telescopes can easily reveal its majestic rings. Credit: NASA and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)
While sky-watchers may not get the same clear view of Saturn as this Hubble image, small telescopes can easily reveal its majestic rings. Courtesy: NASA and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)

Talk about hogging the spotlight! Sky-watchers in North America on Sunday night, August 3, will see planet Saturn cozy up to the bright moon. Over a few hours’ time, as seen from the Eastern Hemisphere, stargazers will see the moon dramatically eclipse the planet.

And the best news is that no one has to miss the event, even on the wrong side of the world, thanks to a live webcast of the entire eclipse.

The stunning lineup of the moon sandwiched between Mars and Saturn will be easily visible with the naked eye, even with bright city lights interfering, starting after nightfall on Sunday evening.

This sky chart shows the lunar line-up as it will appear from North America in the southern evening sky on August 3, 2014. Credit: SkySafari
This sky chart shows the lunar lineup as it will appear from North America in the southern evening sky on August 3, 2014. Credit: SkySafari

A few hours later, as the moon continues its trek across the background of stars and planets, lucky sky-watchers in the Eastern Hemisphere will see the moon actually hide the ringed planet. While there is no need for telescopes or binoculars to catch the special sky show—Saturn will look like a bright star next to the moon—a small scope will reveal the planet’s majestic rings. (The event will come too near dawn on Monday for folks in the Western Hemisphere, but the eclipse can be watched on the Internet. See below.)

This sky chart show the view of Saturn and the moon from Australia at 9 pm local time on the night of August 4, 2014. Credit: SkySafari
This sky chart shows how Saturn and the moon will look from Australia at 9 p.m. local time on the night of August 4, 2014. Credit: SkySafari

“Such an eclipse is called an occultation, and it’s quite dramatic when it involves a bright photogenic object like Saturn, whose rings are now nearly optimally tilted,” says astronomer Bob Berman of Slooh, which will webcast the event.

“Slooh’s live feeds from Australia will capture the actual eclipse of Saturn by the moon, with striking detail visible on the foreground moon and the background planet —a true photobomb moment. This is one of those don’t-miss events,” he said.

The occultation broadcast will begin on Monday, August 4, starting at 4 a.m. PDT/7 a.m. EDT/11:00 UTC.

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Comments

  1. Cheryl Martin
    United States
    August 3, 5:57 pm

    Love the night sky. Wish I could see more in my sky

  2. Debbie Kump
    1662 5th St.NE. Salem, Or.97301
    August 3, 5:43 pm

    I just wanted to say”Thank you for letting me know where & when to look up into the night.”