By Hakim Hayat | Borneo Bulleting

Recently a rare Mars occultation had occurred, where the red planet disappeared behind the crescent of the Moon. The phenomenon was only visible from a small region in Asia,
including Brunei Darussalam.

Astronomical experts and enthusiasts from the Astronomical Society of Brunei Darussalam (PABD), armed with telescopes, binoculars and cameras took the opportunity to hold a viewing event for its members at the beach front of The Empire Brunei in Jerudong.

PABD Treasurer-General Shaiful Bahri bin Haji Ahmad offered an Islamic point of view of this occurance. β€œThis phenomenon only occurs every 77 years,” he said.

Photo shows a rare Mars occultation visible in the Brunei sky where the red planet disappeared behind the crescent moon. PHOTOS: MUHAMMAD HIDAYATULLAH AHMAD

This, he said, is one of Allah the Almighty’s magnificence.

β€œThis is the beauty of the course of the precise movement and rules of stars and planets set by Allah the Almighty.

β€œThe rules set by Allah the Almighty for the course of these planets are precise and beautiful, and each planet has its own course.”

Executive committee member of PABD Nurbazilah binti Zainal Abidin said there was a moment of panic when some clouds appeared to obstruct the view, but thankfully cleared just in time for the event.

During the spectacle, from the naked eye, Mars looked like a bright β€˜red star’ close to the Moon at around 8pm. It got interestingly closer to the Moon by 9pm before disappearing at 9.29pm.

The PABD said that an occultation is an astronomical phenomenon when one object is obscured by another object that passes between it and the observer.

Mars slipped behind the Moon’s dark side and was visible to the naked eye. From Brunei, the Moon was very low on the horizon. Lunar gazers had to be at a location with an unobstructed view of the Western sky.

Since the Moon is the nearest cosmic neighbour to Earth, it regularly passes in front of planets or bright stars. But an occultation by the Moon and Mars from the same location on Earth is an exceedingly rare occurrence. It is often described as a β€œperfect planet alignment”.

The last Mars occultation that occurred in Brunei was in May 2008.

The next one is set to take place 77 years later, on February 7, 2098.

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