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An Early-Morning
Moon Occults Saturn

PS: This is Saturn emerging from behind the Moon as seen from Kansas City on the morning of September 18, 1997.


From my observing site, through my second floor office window, the Moon was very bright, just two days past full. Clouds occasionally obscured the view, but at the critical moments of disappearance and reappearance, the clouds gave way. In my little C90 telescope Saturn appeared as a tiny oval next to the huge lunar globe, having only a hundredth the Moon's apparent diameter. Moreover Saturn's surface brightness is much dimmer since the planet is far from the Sun, where sunlight shines not nearly as brightly as it does on the Moon. (Saturn's clouds reflect light four times better than the lunar soil, but this isn't nearly enough to make up the difference.)




Even so, my little C90 easily revealed Saturn in the Moon's glare. The Moon's bright edge appeared to creep up to the planet and gradually cover it.

After Saturn reappeared dawn started to break and I watched Saturn move away from the Moon. I watched until Saturn was about a half a Moon's diameter away in the brightening sky.

Small as it may appear, Saturn is large enough that the Moon took up to a minute or more to cover it completely. The planet later reappeared from behind the narrow, dark portion of the Moon's disk. The reappearance was more dramatic, because Saturn was easier to watch when it was a little removed from the glary lunar landscape. The reappearance also took the better part of a minute. During this time I held my Olympus 200DL digital camera up to the eyepiece of the C90 and snapped about twenty pictures getting about five good shots, a few of which are shown here.


Loyd Overcash, with the
Fort Bend, Texas Astronomy Club shot a continuous video of the event and saved a frame from it which is posted on the Fort Bend Astro Society's web page. Here is a copy of that frame. This is a much higher magnification and I'm not sure of the orientation or whether this was before or after occultation.

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PS:That's "Moonlight Sonata" playing as background music if you can hear it.