Chasing Lunar Crescents … And Mercury Too!

A sight worth the frozen fingers. The wafer-thin crescent moon alongside Mercury (upper left) over the Duluth, Minn. – Superior, Wis. area last night during twilight. The planet was visible for more than 1 hour 15 minutes after sunset. Details: 150mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 400 and 1/4″ exposure. Credit: Bob King

Hope you saw the pairing of Mercury and the 1-day-old moon last night. If you missed it or had to put up with bad weather, a slightly thicker crescent will hover a “fist” above Mercury in the western sky during twilight tonight. Start looking about 40 minutes after sunset.

The wiry moon sets over Duluth’s Spirit Mountain ski hill – many of the runs were lit up Friday night. Notice the prominent earthshine or darkly-lit moon. This is light reflected off Earth and out to the moon, where it’s reflected back again to our eyes. Details: 350mm lens at f/4.5, ISO 800 and 1-second exposure. Credit: Bob King

Be sure to catch the planet sometime in the next week before it slinks back toward the horizon and disappears in the twilight glow. The moon was so thin that its Cheshire cat smile appeared slightly broken or irregular to the eye. Sure wish I’d brought binoculars for a closer look.

Beautifully composed shot of Venus and the morning crescent on Jan. 28, 2014 on either side of a statue of astronomer Nicholas Copernicus at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Ill. Copyright: Don MacKay

One day before new moon phase, lots of folks reported sightings of a similarly skinny crescent to the lower left of Venus in the dawn sky. I received a couple beautiful images to share with you. Enjoy.

One day later on Jan. 29 the moon had moved to the left and below brilliant Venus. This photo taken from the woodlands of Lakewood Township near Duluth, Minn. Details: 1.6 sec, 70mm F4, ISO 400. Credit: James Schaff
Illustration (not to scale) showing why the evening crescent faces one way and the morning crescent the other. As the moon orbits the Earth, sunlight illuminates its left or eastern edge before new moon. After new moon, the right or western edge is lit. Illustration: Bob King

8 Responses

  1. Edward M. Boll

    Mercury is my favorite planet except for Earth. I think that the challenge of seeing it makes it fun. I should make a point in seeing it tonight.

  2. Jim Schaff

    Hi Bob,

    I caught the Mercury/moon pair too. And I can relate to cold fingers. I was amazed at how easy it was to see at 27 hours old. This is now my record.


      1. caralex

        Saw ’em too, Bob, from my cruise ship! The moon was lying flat on its back, with the horns pointing more north than south, which I found a bit surprising, as we were at the latitude of the Bahamas when I saw it. Mercury was high and bright too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so bright as these past few evenings. Saw Venus high in the pre-dawn sky, as we docked at Ft. Lauderdale this morning.

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