Moon Hangs By A Fingernail Below Venus Tonight

A day old lunar crescent adds beauty to the twilight scene last night May 19. It will be higher up and easier to spot tonight. Watch for a nice view of the entire moon, most of which is faintly illuminated by light reflecting off Earth. Credit: Bob King
A day old lunar crescent adds beauty to the twilight scene last night May 19. It will be higher up and easier to spot tonight. Watch for a nice view of the entire moon, most of which is faintly illuminated by light reflecting off Earth. Credit: Bob King

Be on the lookout in the western sky during twilight tonight. The 2-day-old fingernail moon will join Venus in Gemini the Twins for an eye-catching sight. You’ll see them both starting about about half an hour after sundown, but the best views will be in late twilight when they’ll dazzle in a darker sky. That’s also the time to get the best views of the “dark” part of the moon, all the area to the left of the sunlit crescent lit by reflected sunlight from Earth’s clouds and oceans. Apollo astronauts described the earthlit moon as looking like snow-covered ground at night. 

View tonight facing northwest about an hour after sunset. The moon dangles below Venus. Created with Stellarium
View tonight facing northwest about an hour after sunset. The moon dangles below Venus. Created with Stellarium

Who knows what other surprises you might see if you go out. No aurora was forecasted for last night but promptly at 10:15 p.m. a phalanx of faint rays appeared in the northwestern sky. When they disappeared five minutes later, I figured that was it. Wrong-o. Multiple rays kept the northern sky lively till well past midnight. 

No space weather storms are forecast for tonight, but who knows? In an earlier blog, I mentioned that the Milky Way’s now putting in a fine appearance in the eastern sky, rising like so much smoke from a zillion galactic campfires. Although the moon has returned, it’s still too skinny to brighten the night, so we’ve got a few nights of dark skies left for spying the galaxy on the rise.

The kind of surprise I like. Aurora appeared in late twilight yesterday and performed till well after midnight in the northern sky. Credit: Bob King
The kind of surprise I like. Aurora appeared in late twilight yesterday and performed till well after midnight in the northern sky. Credit: Bob King

The three brightest stars in the photo are Deneb in the Northern Cross (left), Vega (top) and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. Connect them all to make a giant triangle called the Summer Triangle, one of the sky’s most familiar asterisms. 

The Milky Way and Summer Triangle around midnight last night. The pink color at left is from the aurora. The bottom green is natural airglow. Credit: Bob King
The Milky Way and Summer Triangle around midnight last night. The pink color at left is from the aurora. The bottom green is natural airglow. 90-second guided exposure at ISO 800. Credit: Bob King

14 Responses

      1. caralex

        Ah, there’s my comment! It disappeared into the ether when I posted it – it didn’t show up as a ‘comment awaiting moderation’, as usual!

      2. BCstargazer

        Bob, are you telling me that for the past 2 days, I was mistaken to think that I had finally gotten the last word in, ending internet comments once and for all?
        Back to the drawing board then …
        😉

  1. caralex

    Bob, I’ve read that Venus can never be seen after midnight. That’s not strictly true, though, is it? With greatest elongation having occurred just a few days ago, it doesn’t set here until after midnight. Can you see it that late?

      1. BCstargazer

        Thanks for the link Bob. I noticed the oddity for Thunder Bay, Ont. that sits at the western edge of the eastern time zone. The same effect is true for all of the Yukon Territory, located at the western edge of the Pacific time zone. Having worked in Dawson City, 100 km (60 miles) south of the Arctic circle, my guess is that Venus would be in the sky past that 2 am but i wonder if it’s be easily visible with the naked eye as we’re approaching summer solstice and the ecliptic appears as an area very close to the horizon. During my time there, the Moon would only be sparingly visible at times, although the sky would hardly ever be dark thanks to the ever present mesmerizing auroras It would be interesting to compare observations times with the city of Fairbanks, Alaska that is located at about the same latitude but further west, across the international border and in a different time zone.

        1. astrobob

          BC,
          I was in Anchorage once during the summertime in late June and I’ll never forget the permanent twilight. We had to put extra sheets up in our hotel room to block the light as all they had were flimsy curtains.

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