Saturn Occults 28 Sagittarii

On the night of July 2-3, 1989, the planet Saturn slid in front of the orange magnitude 5 star 28 Sagitarii. It's quite rare for the planet to occult such a bright star. I was fortunate enough to observe it under almost perfect conditions using a 6" f/8 Astro-Physics refractor at 250X.

Here are excerpts from my notebook entry for that night:

" The globe of the planet was a delicate, 3-dimensional-looking ovoid with gorgeously subtle shadings. The polar region was quite dark at the pole, shading gradually away far to the south. The overall disk color was greyish-greenish-yellow, similar to the yolk of a hard-boiled egg. The crepe ring was dimly visible all the way around, while the Encke division was visible at moments of best seeing.

"The sight of that great planet hovering so close to the flawless image of a bright star was awesome. The star was pale orange. It entered the A ring, where it remained visible at all times while fluctuating in brightness. It shone through the Encke gap, then blazed full through the Cassini division. Entering the B ring, it disappeared. Later, as it approached the C ring, it began to reappear sporadically and dimly. In the C ring it had its most dramatic brightness changes, winking on and off several times. Finally it neared the planet itself, where it came and went a few times as it was slowly swallowed up."

This was one of my most memorable observing nights. Afterwards I painted the picture seen above.

Image copyright by Joe Bergeron. Painting from the collection of Richard C. Deluca.