Uranus Occultation

Faculty in Rowan's Department of Physics and Astronomy are hoping for clear skies on the night of September 12 because Uranus will occult the faint star UCAC4 535-005486.

Occultations occur when an object (such as a planet) passes in front of another object, temporarily blocking its light. Just before midnight on September 12, Uranus will pass in front of a faint star from our viewpoint, eclipsing the star for about an hour.

The star, UCAC 4 535-005486 is very faint, about magnitude 11.9, and will be difficult to track from our suburban observatory. However, if we can see it, data collected from our 0.4m research telescope could help with measurements of Uranus' faint set of rings and improve the ephemeris - calculated positions - of the planet. This will be the first opportunity since 2006 to observe Uranus' rings during a stellar occultation and the best opportunity for the next decade. 

The occultation will not be visible with backyard telescopes, but you can still try to spot the ice giant. It's in the constellation Aries, the Ram, and will appear as a small blue disk through a 4-inch telescope.

Observers from parts of Africa, Asia, and most of Europe will have additional Uranus occultation. But this time, it is not Uranus eclipsing a star; the Moon is eclipsing Uranus. On September 14, the Moon will pass in front of Uranus, blocking it from view for about an hour.

Here's hoping for clear skies for all observers to view these celestial events!