If you missed the moment when Aldebaran’s occultation was visible to the naked eye, which happened Tuesday night, do not worry. This stellar eclipse will return on the 29th of July, the 19th of October and the 14th of December this year.
The phenomenon known as occultation is basically an eclipse when a star or a planet becomes invisible due to the shadow of the moon. The name “occultation” is derived from “occult” which originally meant hidden. In other words, it has no affiliation to any supernatural phenomenon or other similar events what-so-ever, even if you may have thought that to be the case at first glance.
Although occultation events are fairly common, this Tuesday night’s event was special because it was easily viewed without the use of a telescope or binoculars. This is due to the fact that Aldebaran is the 3rd most luminous star visible from our planet that can undergo the process of occultation, with the other two being Risa and Spica.
The first magnitude star Aldebaran, classified as such because of its intense coloration and brightness, resides in the eye of the Taurus constellation. Because of this, the star is also known as the yellow eye of Taurus. In regards to its size, it is almost 45 times larger than the core of our solar system, the Sun.
Even if it’s brightness makes us capable of spotting the occultation event even while in cities, the waxing gibbous moon could have made some people opt for the use of a telescope in order to see the phenomenon more clearly. Once looking at the event, it would seem as if someone simply shut down the star.
This instantaneous disappearance of Aldebaran is caused by the fact that our moon does not have an atmosphere. The star will slowly be crept upon by the moon’s darker side until it simply pops out of existence, only to appear on its other side after a certain period of time. Depending on the region from where you viewed this phenomenon, the occultation event could have lasted for up to 80 minutes.
The event where Aldebaran’s occultation was visible to the naked eye is just one of the many astrological events scheduled to appear during 2016. A total eclipse of the sun will be viewable from South-east Asia while a partial one will grace the Hawaiian Islands and Alaska between the 8th and 9th of March. A supermoon will also appear in the later months of 2016, more specifically, on the 14th of November.