I hope you had a chance to see the spectacle of moon and planets in the western sky Sunday evening. The full circle of the moon is visible alongside Jupiter. The bright part of the circle (crescent) is illuminated by the sun, while the remainder of the moon shines by sunlight reflected from Earth’s clouds, water and land. Earthshine is much fainter than direct sunlight, which is why that portion of the moon glows only weakly.
Not far above the pair is Venus and the Seven Sisters star cluster. Very eye-catching all!
Tonight the moon will be next to Venus and even closer than it is to Jupiter tonight, but you don’t have to wait till dusk to see the pair. Why not try and spot them in binoculars before sunset?
The moon is fairly easy to see in a clear sky by late afternoon and early evening. Once you find it, take a look through binoculars and you’ll have no problem seeing Venus not far to its upper right. Seeing Venus in a sunlit sky can be challenging, but with the moon nearby you’ve got the cosmos on your side. Give it a try. I think you’ll be surprised how easy it is. And once you’ve spotted the duo in binoculars, take the next step and try to pick out Venus with your naked eye.
The maps show the pair for the central U.S. If you live on the East Coast, Venus will be a tad higher to the right; for the West Coast they’ll be more “level” or in line with each other.
George Tarsoudis of Greece took a wonderful image of Venus that shows far more detail than what you’d see with your eyes through any telescope. Using a digital camera and ultraviolet filters on his 10-inch scope, he captured textures in the planet’s clouds not visible in everyday “visual” light.