Moon passed in front of Venus in rare event

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The moon passed in front of Venus Monday – and it’s a rare occurrence that caught the eye of local astronomy enthusiasts.

The occultation of Venus could be seen from Providence, and experts say it is a somewhat rare event.

It was a little hard to see, but for those who knew where to look in the sky – you could see both Venus and the thin crescent moon close together in broad daylight.

If you were watching closely, you could then see Venus disappear.

“So we’ll witness the moon blocking the planet Venus and we’ll have to wait about an hour and we’ll see it reappear on the edge of the moon,” Robert Horton of Brown University told Eyewitness News before the event occurred.

The occultation, or the event where one celestial body passes in front of the other, was caught on camera at 12:42 p.m. – and experts say that while it looks like they are close, really they are not.

“The moon is just a quarter of a million miles away and Venus is millions of miles away,” Horton said.

Ian Dell’Antonio, also from Brown University, said occultations can provide important information to astronomers.

“Occultations of stars, for example, will tell you something about the properties of a star,” he said. “Occultations of asteroids will tell you something about physical size.”

The experts said spacecraft and new technologies have made Venus occultations much less important than they once were.

“Occultations of Venus were historically used, partially for learning about the scale of the universe, and also for learning about the atmosphere,” Dell’Antonio said.

Now, the event is just a neat thing to look at.

The next occultation of Venus visible from Southern New England will be in August of 2019.

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