A waxing crescent Moon sliding serenely toward the horizon in evening twilight is always a pleasant sight to behold, but observers in the UK watching the 4-day-old Moon through a telescope around 40 minutes after sunset on Sunday, 24 September have an additional treat in store. The lunar crescent lies in the zodiacal constellation of Libra (the Scales) and passes in front of naked-eye star gamma (γ) Librae, also known by its Arabic name of Zuben Elakrab, soon after 7:45pm BST — though the precise time depends on where you live in the British Isles.
For observers in the London area, the magnitude +3.9 star winks out behind the darkened lunar hemisphere shortly before 7:55pm, while skywatchers closer to Edinburgh will see the occultation occur at 7:45pm BST. For observers nearer the centre of the British Isles, the event happens close to 7:49pm when the 20 percent illuminated Moon lies just 9 degrees — barely the span of a fist held at arm’s length — above the southwest horizon.
Gamma Librae lies about 160 light-years from Earth. Interestingly, it is also a double star, though its magnitude +11 companion some 42½ arcseconds distant will not be visible owing to the glare from the adjacent Moon and atmospheric extinction so close to the horizon. Furthermore, the star’s reappearance at the bright lunar limb close to 8:55pm BST is unlikely to be seen so close to moonset.