Tonight (Saturday) the moon will still be near Venus in the evening sky at dusk. Just look to the west starting around 6:30 p.m. Created with Stellarium.
Last night’s conjunction was just mesmerizing. There must be something deep in our consciousness that makes us pause and pay attention to celestial alignments. Have events in the sky somehow become woven into our evolution? I can imagine the light of another Venus-moon pairing reflecting off the eyes of Homo erectus, a precursor to our species, two million years ago. "What did it mean?" must have been the question in her mind. No doubt such a striking alignment would be noticed and interpreted as a sign of some sort. But what? In the 21st century, we gaze upward and see beauty, a personal message, the hand of our god, a new beginning. What you see is who you are.
Last night’s conjunction photographed by Jim Schaff of Hermantown who went through two camera batteries in the 20 below zero cold. Details: 4 second exp, 70mm F2.8, ISO 100 with a Rebel XTi camera.
Judging from e-mail I’ve received, a lot of people enjoyed the moon and Venus last night. You can see them again tonight in Act II, but the moon will have slid upward and away from the planet. The moon appears to move a little more than one outstretched fist per night eastward (to the left) in the sky. We’re not often aware of it, but the moon orbits around the Earth at over 2200 miles per hour. That’s what causes it to change position night to night against the background of the constellations. As it moves, the angle the moon makes in relation to the sun and Earth keeps changing too, and this is what causes it to increase in phase from crescent to half to full.
This photo was taken by William Wiethoff of Port Wing, Wisconsin. Wiethoff stayed up till dawn photographing galaxies and nebulas through his scope.
The moon also rotates just like the Earth, but much more slowly — only 10 miles per hour! If you could ride a bike on the moon and start your ride at say, sunrise, you’d have no problem pedaling fast enough to keep the sun from rising any higher in the sky. At the latitude of Duluth, the Earth rotates at about 750 miles per hour, which is very close to the speed of sound. Obviously you can’t outpedal the sun on our planet, but you could keep pace in a fast plane.
Comet Lulin and the star Regulus last night. Details: 200mm lens at f/2.8, 2-minute time exposure at ISO 800. Photo: Bob King
Last night was special too because Comet Lulin was close to the bright star Regulus, making it an easy target in binoculars. It’ll still be in the star’s neighborhood tonight if you haven’t checked it out yet. Just scroll down a couple days to find the map showing its track.
Thank you all for the nice photographs you sent! When more arrive, I’ll post them.
Lois Tibbetts, who is staying in Marathon, Florida on Vaca Key, sent this photo of the conjunction from a warmer part of the world.