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The Moon occults a lot of stars. But are these events visible to the naked eye? Won't it be blinded out by the crescent even at its thinnest just before sunrise? Did ancient astronomers actually observe them, or did they deduce them theoretically according to orbital calculations? (I suppose occultation during an eclipse is both invisible and unlikely, right?)

Venus, the brightest planet, like the new Moon always stays near the horizon. But could one actually see even Venus disappear behind the lunar anti-crust? A popular medieval islamic symbol suggests to me that they were well aware of this phenomena. Both the Moon and Venus are still symbolically important in their culture. But was occultation directly visible or inferred?

Photo (non-naked eye) of the Moon occulting Aldebaran

Ancient symbol for a lunar occultation (please disregard whatever it is interpreted to stand for today)

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    $\begingroup$ Occultations of bright stars are easily visible and frequently photographed (do a google image search for "lunar occultations") $\endgroup$ – user21 Jul 18 '15 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ @barrycarter But are they visible to the naked eye? $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Jul 18 '15 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, quite easily. $\endgroup$ – user21 Jul 19 '15 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ People watch these things. Here's a prediction map for one next month: Moon Occults Aldebaran - September 04-05 : curtrenz.com/occultations.html and curtrenz.com/occult05.html $\endgroup$ – Wayfaring Stranger Sep 12 '15 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ Messed up, it's Aldebaran 2015 OCT 02. At least I didn't say Alderaan. $\endgroup$ – Wayfaring Stranger Sep 12 '15 at 13:12
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Yes - especially as the occultation does not have to occur on the bright side. Planets may also be occulted (see http://www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/planets/planets.htm)

Incidentally the symbol is not originally Islamic. It was the flag of Constantinople when conquered by the Ottomans and then adopted by them. The Ottomans later became the Caliphs - the nominal leaders of the world's Sunni Muslims and so the flag was widely adopted across Islam.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are those visible magnitudes given in your link really valid as the Moon is about to occult them? Shouldn't the magnitude of Uranus for example, vary more depending on being occulted by a new Moon or a demilune (to use a fancy term)? I wonder if the Moon doesn't blind everything near it. Uranus is hard to see as it is with the naked eye. Could one really watch even Venus suddenly disappear behind the New Moon? Have you seen it happen? (And very interesting about the Byzantine flag!) $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Sep 10 '15 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ Magnitude is not a measure of visibility/eye adaption, so the Lunar magnitude does not affect it. Sadly, while I have seen stellar occultations I have not seen planetary ones. $\endgroup$ – adrianmcmenamin Sep 11 '15 at 18:41

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