You’ve probably remarked at the beauty of a thin crescent moon sometime in your life, but for really really thin you can’t do better than a photograph of the new moon itself. French astrophotographer Thierry Legault achieved this seemingly impossible feat on July 8 when the moon was exactly at new phase and closely lined up with the sun.
Because sun and moon were separated by only 4 degrees (less than the spacing between the two stars at the end of the Big Dipper’s bucket), Legault had to shoot his photo through a custom shade – with a hole punched out for the moon – to block the solar glare and reduce skylight.
To further increase the moon’s contrast against the blue sky he used a camera sensor sensitive to near-infrared light, a “color” of light just long of the red end of the rainbow spectrum.
You gotta love it when someone takes a new approach to doing something most thought impossible … and it works splendidly.
Just look at that cat-scratch crescent. You’ll probably never see one thinner. Well, I shouldn’t say never. During a total solar eclipse, the moon passes directly in front of the sun and the percentage of visible crescent drops to zero. Such perfect alignments only happen a few times a year for specific locations on the planet. The moon’s slightly tilted orbit around the Earth normally means it’s a bit north or south of the sun at the moment of New Moon, leaving a razor-thin crescent in view. No one sees this crescent because it’s much too close to the sun and lost in glare.
The youngest moon I’ve ever seen was just shy of 24 hours. Positively ancient compared to Legault’s zero-hour-old crescent. Notice too that the crescent is unevenly illuminated. That’s because the moon’s surface is rough and cratered. Low spots don’t get as much sunlight as high spots like crater walls, breaking the moon’s delicate form into lighter and darker segments.
Ordinary humans like you and I can spy the lunar crescent tonight shortly after sunset. Faithful to its orbital rhythm, the moon has returned to grace evening twilight and will appear near the bright planet Venus. Watch as the two glide in tandem toward the western horizon.