Missed Last Night’s Venus-moon Show? Here’s A Consolation Prize

Last night during twilight many of you watched a pretty conjunction of the crescent moon and Venus. From parts of South America the moon occulted the planet as shown in this sequence taken in Florencio Varela, Buenos Aires. Credit: Alejandro Arias and Paula Andrea Ramos

Many of you saw the remarkable pairing of Venus and the crescent moon last night, but some were less fortunate. We had cloudy skies at my house. For North America the moon slid by the planet; for parts of South American however the crescent passed directly over Venus. Skywatchers there witnessed a rare occultation.

Use the moon tonight to find Saturn low in the southwestern sky. This map shows the scene about a half hour after sunset facing west-southwest. You might even spot Mercury in binoculars to the lower right of Venus. Stellarium

Tonight the moon fattens and moves on to the east. While I dissed Saturn the other day, saying it was too faint and low to see well from mid-northern latitudes, that doesn’t mean it’s absent. Using the moon tonight, you may well get your last easy view of the ringed planet at dusk with binoculars. Observers living in the southern U.S. may even spot Saturn briefly with the naked eye before it sets.

Mercury will be more challenging – a first magnitude glimmer to the lower right of Venus only a few degrees above the sunset horizon.

The International Space Station returns to morning visibility this week from many locations. Watch for a brilliant, yellowish “star” moving from west to east across the sky around the start of morning twilight. Click over to Spaceweather’s Satellite Flybys or login to Heavens Above to get times and viewing directions for your town.

Here are a few passes visible from the Duluth, Minn. region:

* Thurs. Sept. 12 starting at 6:05 a.m. Low pass from southwest to northeast. Max. altitude: 14 degrees (one fist held at arm’s length against the sky equals 10 degrees).

* Fri. Sept. 14 at 6:03 a.m. starting in the southwest below Orion and moving northeast. Max. altitude = 33 degrees

* Sat. Sept 15 at 5:15 a.m. similar to above. Max. altitude: 21 degrees

* Sun. Sept. 16 at 6:02 a.m. Passes high in the southern sky moving from southwest to northeast. Brilliant! Max. altitude: 74 degrees

16 Responses

  1. Giorgio Rizzarelli

    Sorry, about 2nd one, I now see you wrote “part of South American”. You can erase my comments after correcting the author names šŸ™‚

    1. astrobob

      Thank you for the correct names Giorgio! I appreciate it. Tell your friends I’m delighted to share their photo.

  2. Edward M. Boll

    Thunderstorm last night. But I am not sorry. For the next 2 weeks, Venus and Saturn are making a great pairing.Now for some memories. I found a little comfort on the morning of September 12, 2001 when I saw Jupiter appear near the Moon. And now what is sometimes hard to see Mars, really impressed me the first real look I had of it in July of 1986. It’s bright reddish tint to me made it seem to shine almost as bright as Venus. And that was almost 10 years to the day that our unmanned spacecraft landed on that reddish orange, desert planet.

  3. Edward M. Boll

    Bob, Comet Lovejoy may make 3 comets visible in binoculars in late November. It should be brightest around November 23 at it’s closest approach to Earth and should slowly fade toward perihelion by late December.

  4. Sean

    Bob u seem a little pessimistic about the view of Saturn these days. while it’s certainly not ideally placed for observation, it is easily naked-eye visible for N states prior to the time it sets starting perhaps a half hour to 45 minutes after sunset, assuming u have a low clear SW view, with Venus a handy guide to finding it. looking forward to the conjunction later this week!

    1. astrobob

      Hi Sean,
      Hah! You’re probably right about Saturnian pessimism but honestly, I haven’t seen it for a while because it’s too low to catch the eye once it’s dark enough around here. No problem in binoculars though. It’ll be interesting to give it one more try when it’s in conjunction with Venus on the 18th. Venus is low though and Saturn “only” 1st magnitude. Let us know if you spot it naked eye.

      1. Sean

        hey Bob. Thx 4 the reply. ya i spotted it 2nite, thru a little high cloudiness no less, at almost 8PM, (naked eye) with astronomical night at about 8:30 i think these days. above and to the left of Venus. i had spotted it the previous night also, in clearer skies, at a similar time tho perhaps a little earlier. heightwise it’s better-positioned than Venus, although its dimness means it’s visible for much less time. i think by sometime next month it may pretty much disappear into twilight.

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