A rare sky event is going to occur in the early morning hours on Sunday, July 15th 2012. The Moon will pass in front of the planet Jupiter and its four moons and will block them from our views for about an hour. The phenomenon that astronomers call “occultation” will start at 3.30 a.m. Half an hour later at 4:01 a.m. the moon will cover Jupiter and it’s Galilean satellites (moons) over the course of a few minutes, blotting them out of the sky. About an hour later they will pop out from behind the moon one by one.
The phenomenon will be best visible from Middle East and Africa, but also from parts of South European countries, like Greece.
Jupiter occultation – animation source: Astronomy Israel
“These occultations are memorable events just when seen with the naked eye. The proximity of so many bright heavenly bodies near each other is one of the most beautiful sights the sky has to offer. Through any kind of optical instrument the grandeur is even greater. You will need at least binoculars to see the Galilean satellites occulted. A telescope, of almost any size, will show much more, including the cloud-striped disk of Jupiter as it slides behind the bright, crater-scared rim of the moon and reappears from behind the dark side of the moon. I remember every occultation I have ever observed and treasure them as my dearest astronomical memories. You don’t have to be in Miztpe Ramon to see this, or even have especially dark skies. But you will need a very clear eastern horizon, since all of these objects will have just risen about 30 minutes before the occultation begins,” writes astronomer Ira Machefsky
PS In winter 2010 I witnessed a rare night sky event occurring right in front of my window: an extraordinary play of the Crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter, I think playing ‘seek and hide’ for about one hour… Amazing!