The Moon Passes the Beehive and ν Virginis
This week the moon will pass the Beehive Cluster and cover the naked-eye star ν Virginis. Here is when to see these events in the sky.
When the moon rises in the eastern sky after shortly before 1 am EDT on Tuesday, it will be completing a passage through the heart of the large, open star cluster known as the Beehive ( Messier 44, M44). The moon’s orbital motion will carry it several degrees away from the cluster by dawn, but both objects will still fit within the field of view of binoculars. For best results, position the moon outside of the lower left of your binoculars’ field of view and look for the cluster’s myriad stars. Hours earlier, observers in Europe and Asia can witness the moon crossing just north of the cluster’s center.
On Friday morning, the old crescent moon will rise at about 4:30 am local time and enter the constellation of Virgo (the Maiden). As it does so, the moon will pass in front of (or occult) a medium-bright star named ν Virginis (ν Virgo, Nu Virginis or 3 Virginis). You can watch the event in a telescope, through binoculars, or with your unaided eyes. At about 5:28 am Eastern Daylight Time (or 09:58 GMT), the bright crescent of the moon will cover the star. At 6:21 am, the star will suddenly re-appear over the dark top edge of the moon. During these lunar stellar occultation events, stars disappear and reappear almost instantly because the moon has no atmosphere to spread out a star’s narrow beam of light.
The exact timings will vary by your latitude, so start watching earlier – or use our astronomy app Star Walk 2 to find out the exact times where you are located.