A perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system or "supermoon" is a full or new moon that coincides with a close approach by the Moon to the Earth.

  1. Picture of the Moon for Comparison

Scheduled Programme for the SKY WATCH

  1. Scheduled Programme for the SKY WATCH

Total Solar Eclipse 22nd July 2009

  1. Total Solar Eclipse 22nd July 2009 ""
  2. Poorna Surya Grahana 2009 ""


A Mars-Saturn conjunction is going to take place on Jul 11, 2008. Since their mutual separation gets very small that day, the conjunction will surely be worth a watch.

Mars and Saturn, the two beautiful planets in the night sky will come closest to each other on the night of Jul 11, 2008. This conjunction is apparent only, for, in real terms of their distances from the Earth, the planets will be far apart.

So, what does that really mean? In the course of their motion round the Sun, Mars and Saturn reach this month a location in the sky where the two appear juxtaposed! The respective positions for a few evenings at 19:00 IST are as under:

date(2008) Mars altitude Distance from Earth Saturn altitude Distance from Earth Planetary separation
Jul 6 41.050 deg 2.147 AU 43.191 9.935 AU 2.141 deg
Jul 9 39.734 deg 2.166 AU 40.567 9.972 AU 0.833 deg
Jul 10 39.293 deg 2.172 AU 39.695 9.984 AU 0.402 deg
Jul 11 38.851 deg 2.178 AU 38.823 9.996 AU 0.028 deg
Jul 12 38.408 deg 2.184 AU 37.952 10.008 AU 0.456 deg

In the table above, altitude refers to the angular height of the planet in the sky above the horizon in degrees, and 1 AU = Mean Earth-Sun distance, about 150 million km. The numbers given above are for Bangalore. Obviously, Jul 11, 2008, 19:00 hrs is ideal time to watch the conjunction, the closest till Apr 4, 2022. For Delhi, we have:

date(2008) Mars altitude Distance from Earth Saturn altitude Distance from Earth Planetary separation
Jul 11 37.853 deg 2.178 AU 38.093 9.996 AU 0.240 deg

And so, the two planets appear huddled together more tightly when watched from the southern parts of India.

Clouds permitting, look up the western sky after the sunset. The two will be bright enough to be noticed but barely resolvable as the human eye can resolve a separation of 1/60th of a degree. For reference, the Moon's apparent diameter is about 1/2 degrees.

A few days earlier, on Jul 6, 2008, Saturn and Mars appear about 2 deg apart and closely aligned with a bright star Regulus and a crescent Moon. A view through a binocular will be mesmeric.

After the Jul 11 conjunction the two planets will gradually drift apart. They will be as far apart as about 11 deg by the end of the month and setting while twilight is still very bright.

The planetary conjunction on Jul 11, 2008 is an innocent celestial phenomenon, with no possible adverse effect whatsoever on anyone as there is no scientific evidence to prove this.

- R C Kapoor

Occultation of Mars by the Moon on May 10, 2008

Got a telescope? No? Doesn't matter! A binocular at least? No? Don't worry even then! Bare-eyed, look towards the west this Saturday evening. You have a date with Mars and Moon, both. Do not miss the view, wherever you are, in South East Asia, India, Middle East or in certain parts of Europe and Africa. For, a waxing Moon at 33% past the New will be moving past Mars, actually in fornt of it. The sky will be dark enough and the objects well above the horizon. The event begins in India after 19 30 IST though the timings depend on where one is located. The disappearance and reappearance timings for a few stations are as follows:

Bangalore &nbsp 20h  03m  24s &nbsp     21h  14m  56s  IST
Delhi &nbsp           19  41     37 &nbsp       20    44    36    IST
Dehra Dun   19   32    00&nbsp        20     39    39   IST
Kolkata &nbsp        20   06    46 &nbsp      20     58    15   IST

If the clouds do not play a spoilsport, the view of the disappearance into the dark side and reappearance of the planet from the bright side of the
Moon watched through even a binocular will be a breathtaking one.

The astronomers call such an event an occultation. It is kind of an eclipse only where a celestial object, in the present case the Moon, comes in front of a more distant object while moving in its own orbit. The last occultation of Mars by the Moon took place on Apr 14, 2007.Lunar occultations of planets and stars are not very uncommon as the Moon is comparatively a sufficiently extended object. Occultation of a planet by another is of course a rare event. For instance, Venus occulted Jupiter on Jan 3, 1818 and will do so again on Nov 22, 2065. Occultation observations with sophisticated instruments attached to telescopes have yielded valuable information. On the night of March 10, 1977 astronomers from India and abroad observed the rare occultation of a faint star by the planet Uranus which showed the presence of a ring system around the planet, a distinction held till then by the planet Saturn only. While the rings of Saturn are very bright and can be seen even with a small telescope, those
of Uranus are dark and thin and so had escaped detection till 1977.

Mars is about 1.7 Astronomical Units (AU) from the Earth at present, much farther than the Moon which is only about 4,00,000 km from us (1 AU = 150 million km approximately). The May 10, 2008 occultation is a simple celestial event and has no hazardous implication whatsoever people tend to associate with planets, particularly Mars and Saturn. What you see up there is a chance juxtapositioning of these heavenly bodies while in the course of their motion around the Sun or the Earth. Planets are members of the Solar System, the Earth included and mean no harm to us.

- R C Kapoor

Partial Solar Eclipse: March 19, 2007

The first solar eclipse of 2007 occurs at the Moon's ascending node in Pisces and is visible from eastern Asia and parts of northern Alaska (Figure ). Greatest eclipse (The instant of greatest eclipse occurs when the distance between the Moon's shadow axis and Earth's geocentre reaches a minimum ) takes place at 02:31:56 UT when the eclipse magnitude (Eclipse magnitude is defined as the fraction of the Sun's diameter occulted by the Moon ) will reach 0.8754. The Local Circumstances at Bangalore, India is given below.

At Sunrise the eclipe is in progress
Maximum Eclipse : 06:45 IST
Partial Eclipse Ends: 07:22 IST


Total Lunar Eclipse: March 3, 2007

Last updated on: February 20, 2024