Wednesday, April 22, 2009


If you were out before sunrise on the west side of the United States this morning with a clear view of the horizon, you would have been able to see an occultation. This has nothing to do with black magic, but is an astronomical term for, “concealment of one celestial body by another.” In this case it was the planet Venus sliding behind a thin crescent moon. I often get up before sunrise to go for a walk or a bike ride. I have been watching the moon wandering between Jupiter, Mars and Venus in the early sky. Today was the day Venus and the moon crossed paths. I had my camera ready and went out to get a photo, only to discover the moon so near the horizon that I had to walk over a block for a clear view. I was in my pajamas and slippers and it was dark. It did not occur to me until later that I might have looked a little suspicious wandering around the pre-dawn neighborhood with a camera, dressed in my jammies. Fortunately, I did not meet up with the police like I did last time I was taking sunrise snapshots.
Venus was even brighter than the thin moon, and both were easily visible. The Steiner Castle, okay, ...really grain elevators, added a nice silhouette to the set off the event. In a matter of a few minutes Venus
and disappeared behind the moon. I guess in California this happened enough before dawn that Venus could be seen coming out on the other side. It was certainly worth missing a little sleep to see!