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Wednesday, December 2, 1998 Published at 12:34 GMT


'Fly' over the Moon

The Moon occults Jupiter

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Scientists working for the European Southern Observatory in Chile have made a spectacular video of Jupiter being occulted by the Moon.

As the Moon orbits the Earth it periodically moves in front or occults stars or planets.

Occultations, as they are called, are fascinating to watch. They are also scientifically useful.

By timing the exact moment that a star or a planet passes behind the lunar limb, scientists can determine with great accuracy the position of the Moon in space.


[ image: The Paranal Observatory]
The Paranal Observatory
To capture the occultation of Jupiter on video, a team of astronomers and engineers used a relatively new telescope commissioned at the Paranal Observatory, Chile.

The first short sequence shows the first phase of the occultation during which the dark lunar limb covers Jupiter's disk. The bands in the planets atmosphere are clearly visible.

The second sequence starts with the same sequence, but continues to show the Moon moving across the field of view of the telescope.

[ image: The light side of the Moon]
The light side of the Moon
The effect is that of a 'flight' over the lunar surface.

As lunar night gives way to lunar day, various craters pass by and the general level of brightness increases.

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