Time to tear ourselves away from Pluto for a few minutes to see what else is happening in the sky. I’m sure you won’t mind a little break. While we’ve all been staring at the dwarf planet and Charon on our computer screens, the moon’s been following its ancient arc. New moon occurred yesterday evening. Tonight a super-thin crescent will be all but impossible to see at sunset, but come Saturday, the 3-day-old moon will join Venus and Jupiter in the western sky at dusk for a beautiful gathering.
The highlight of the grouping will be a striking close conjunction of Venus and the moon for skywatchers in mid-northern latitudes; they’ll be a degree or less apart. But if you live in in Australia, parts of Indonesia and the South Pacific, the moon will actually occult or cover up the planet around 1:00 Universal Time (UT).
The next good occultation of Venus by the moon for North American observers happens during the daytime on December 7.
Even before the sun sets Saturday, face west and find the moon in the daytime sky. Then point your binoculars at it and see if you can find Venus before sunset. It should be easy as long as there’s no thick haze about. Look a little to the left and above the crescent. Good luck and I hope you have clear, smoke-free skies!
Oh, OK … I can’t help it. Here’s today’s new close up photo from the Pluto team. It shows a part of Charon with an belly button-like depression in its crust with a mountain in the middle.