New Year's Moon Spectacle: Watch for a Lunar Eclipse of Bright Star Aldebaran

The New Year's long weekend is a great time to look up at the sky, even if there's no astronomical reason to pull out a new calendar now. And the celestial festivities start before the terrestrial ball drops: On Saturday night, star gazers across parts of the U.S. and Canada will be able to spot a stellar disappearing act as the nearly full moon crosses in front of the star, Aldebaran.

Aldebaran, which acts as one of the eyes of the bull constellation Taurus, is one of the brightest stars in the night sky and the single brightest one that the moon can ever dance in front of, a feat called occultation.

If you want to get in on the spectacle, first you will need to check to be sure your location is in the line of sight: You'll need to be east of the line connecting eastern Montana and western Louisiana. West of that line, the sun will still be up, blocking out its distant rival Aldebaran.

12_29_full_moon_occultation As the year changes, look to the moon. Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

You'll also want to check the time of occultation for a city near you. For example Aldebaran will disappear at 6:19 p.m. and reappear at 7:09 p.m. in Washington, D.C. In New York, those times will be 6:24 p.m. and 7:16 p.m., respectively; in Chicago 5:13 p.m. and 6:10 p.m.

There's a detailed schedule available online, although it's a little daunting to navigate. First, scroll down to the proper country abbreviation—CA for Canada and US for the United States—then locate your city. The first three digits that follow are the time the moon will first pass in front of Aldebaran, listed in Coordinated Universal Time. Eastern Time is five hours behind UTC and Central Time is six hours behind UTC, so convert accordingly.

Read more: Supermoons, Blood Moons, Full Moons: Everything You Need to Know About 2018's Lunar Calendar

If you live in central Florida, you are in for an even more special experience, as the moon won't quite manage to occult Aldebaran but will graze past it, with individual mountains blocking the star and then revealing it again. 

As seen from North America, the moon and Aldebaran conduct their occultation dance in spurts, so Saturday night's spectacle will likely be your last chance to watch until a new series starts in 2033—so don't miss your chance this holiday weekend.