Celestial Romance: Astronomy events you shouldn't miss in February

Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 11:04am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
This month, two celestial bodies that are often spoken of in a romantic vein will get close, finds Aadil Desai,
  • Miruna Popescu, Armagh Observatory

A moonlit night, often evokes romantic thoughts. While the Moon is considered a goddess in some cultures, in others it holds the place of a male deity, such as Chandra dev for Hindus, Anningan for many Innuits and Tsuki-Yomi for the Japanese. On the other hand Venus is associated with the feminine, the Roman goddess of love, beauty, sex, fertility and prosperity. In one of the finest events of this month, the Moon and Venus will make a close approach, tease the audiences a bit and then, the Moon will pass in front of Venus on February 26. Early in the morning the pair will be seen together in the east. During the day, the moon will hide Venus from most parts of Southeast Asia, including India and in some parts of Africa the occultation will take place at nightmaking it easy to view. In places where the occultation does not take place, the moon will pass either to the north or south of Venus.

Using a telescope with a tracking device like a motor drive or slow-motion controls will aid you in keeping the Moon and Venus pair in view continuously.

To record your observations, you can make a note of the exact timings of the disappearance and reappearance of Venus from behind the Moon, calculate the total time and the position angles on the Moon where it occurs. Another effect you can try to see is the “Ashen light” on Venus, which is similar to Earthshine (the glow caused when sunlight is reflected by the earth on the dark side of a crescent moon), if you have a large telescope. A video recording of the entire event at high magnification can also make for a good experiment in studying this occultation. You can send your observation and photographic reports to IOTA (International Occultation Timing Association) for further analysis.

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