Star's pass offers rare moon

Last updated 11:00 19/09/2012
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JOHN FIELD/Carter Observatory

LOOK AT THAT MOON, MAN: Spica, to the bottom right of the moon, passes closeby the moon in a "conjunction".

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Warm and clear weather ahead should provide ideal conditions to see an astral phenomenon in some parts of New Zealand this weekend.

Saturday's "grazing occultation" comes after another rare twilight scene last night when the sky's 15th brightest star appeared to come close to the Moon.

"This thin sliver of the moonlit surface and a bright little diamond of a star nearby," is how Carter Observatory public programmes officer John Field described last night's "conjunction".

The star Spica appeared to pass near the Moon at twilight.

While the phenomenon was not rare, to see it with a crescent Moon, with a bright star, at twilight on a clear night was uncommon, he said.

While the passing bodies appeared to be close – especially with the naked eye – the Moon was actually about 360,000km from Earth, compared to Spica, which was 260 light years from us.

On Saturday night another astral spectacle was in store with a "grazing occultation" visible when another star would appear to graze the outside of the Moon.

This would be a rarer event "where the star moves along the Moon's limb and it disappears and reappears behind the mountains and valleys of the Moon".

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- The Dominion Post


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