The Moon in conjunction with Venus and Jupiter, with the Very Large Telescope in the foreground. Image © Y. Beletsky, ESO, 2009.

Lunar occultation of Spica

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Lunar Occultations feed

Objects: Spica
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The Moon will pass in front of Spica (Alpha Virginis), creating a lunar occultation visible from Africa and Northern America. Although the occultation will only be visible across part of the world – because the Moon is so close to the Earth that its position in the sky varies by as much as two degrees across the world – a close conjunction between the pair will be more widely visible.

The occultation will be visible from Fairfield. It will begin with the disappearance of Spica (Alpha Virginis) behind the Moon at 22:02 EST, though at a low altitude of only -0.7 degrees, in the eastern sky. Its reappearance will be visible at 23:05 EST, though at a low altitude of 10.5 degrees.

The map below shows the visibility of the occultation across the world. Separate contours show where the disappearance of Spica (Alpha Virginis) is visible (shown in red), and where its reappearance is visible (shown in blue). Solid contours show where each event is likely to be visible through binoculars at a reasonable altitude in the sky. Dotted contours indicate where each event occurs above the horizon, but may not be visible due to the sky being too bright or the Moon being very close to the horizon.

Map showing where the occultation is visible

Outside the contours, the Moon will not pass in front of Spica (Alpha Virginis) at any time, or is below the horizon at the time of the occultation. However, a close conjunction between the pair will be visible across much of the world.

The map can be downloaded in PNG , PDF or SVG format. A KMZ file , is also available, which can be opened in Google Earth to provide a higher resolution map.

A complete list of the countries and territories where the occultation will be visible is as follows:

Country Time span
Canada 03:03–04:15
Mauritania 04:06–05:57
Mali 04:26–06:14
The Contiguous United States 03:03–04:09
Ivory Coast 04:44–06:34
Western Sahara 04:05–05:31
Burkina Faso 04:51–06:21
Guinea 04:23–06:19
Ghana 05:01–06:37
Senegal 04:11–06:00
Benin 05:14–06:38
Niger 05:13–06:18
Liberia 04:39–06:27
Sierra Leone 04:31–06:15
Togo 05:11–06:37
Guinea-Bissau 04:18–05:59
Nigeria 05:21–06:39
Morocco 04:22–05:07
The Canary Islands 04:01–05:09
Gambia 04:15–05:54
Cape Verde 03:53–05:32
The Portuguese Azores 03:33–04:39
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 03:09–04:14
Bermuda 03:10–04:01
Saint Helena 05:15–06:26
Madeira 04:14–04:47
The Savage Islands 04:10–05:00

Lunar occultations are only ever visible from a small fraction of the Earth's surface. Since the Moon is much closer to the Earth than other celestial objects, its exact position in the sky differs depending on your exact location on Earth due to its large parallax. The position of the Moon as seen from two points on opposite sides of the Earth varies by up to two degrees, or four times the diameter of the full moon.

This means that if the Moon is aligned to pass in front of a particular object for an observer on one side of the Earth, it will appear up to two degrees away from that object on the other side of the Earth.

At the time of the occultation, the Moon will be 6 days past new moon and will be 79% illuminated. Spica (Alpha Virginis) will disappear behind the illuminated side of the Moon and reappear from behind the unilluminated side of the Moon.

The position of Spica (Alpha Virginis) at the moment of the occultation will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
Spica (Alpha Virginis) 13h25m10s 11°09'S Virgo 1.1 0'00"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

Next/previous occultations

« Previous Next »
Visible from the Contiguous United States Worldwide Worldwide Visible from the Contiguous United States
25 Dec 2005 21 Jan 2006 Occultations of Spica (Alpha Virginis) 17 Mar 2006 14 Jul 2024
25 Dec 2005 08 Feb 2006 Occultations 21 Feb 2006 14 Sep 2006

The sky on 25 Jul 2024

The sky on 25 July 2024
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

20-day old moon
Waning Gibbous


20 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 08:02 14:41 21:20
Venus 06:50 13:56 21:02
Moon 22:28 04:24 10:33
Mars 01:24 08:42 16:00
Jupiter 01:59 09:24 16:48
Saturn 22:19 04:00 09:40
All times shown in EDT.


The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE430 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.

Image credit

The Moon in conjunction with Venus and Jupiter, with the Very Large Telescope in the foreground. Image © Y. Beletsky, ESO, 2009.





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