The March To Venus

The moon marches toward the planet Venus the next few nights as it moves eastward in its orbit around the Earth. This map shows the sky about 30 minutes after sunset as you face south-southwest. Stellarium
The moon marches toward the planet Venus the next few nights as it moves eastward in its orbit around the Earth. This map shows the sky about 30 minutes after sunset as you face south-southwest. Stellarium

I shouldn’t be surprised when the moon returns to the evening sky, but somehow I always am. Maybe it’s because it’s gone for so long, rising so late that most of us lose track of where it is. Then all at once, it’s back and in its loveliest guise — a slender crescent. I’m so partial to crescents, I can’t help stop staring whenever I see one reclining in the western sky at dusk.

We have a chance to see a very narrow moon indeed tonight. Just one day old and visible very low in the direction of sundown about 30 minutes (or maybe a bit less) after sunset. At that time, it will be just 5° high or “three fingers” above the horizon, so be sure to find a spot with wide open view in that direction.

Each night, the moon gets easier to find, sliding eastward, rising higher and de-slenderizing. With brilliant Venus a spectacular “evening star” as December opens, the moon’s nightly march to the east seems purposeful. As if that planet were its goal. But no, the crescent has other outfits to try on — half, gibbous, full — and stops only briefly at the goddess of beauty’s doorstep before moving on.

On the 4th and 5th it passes by fainter Mars, Jupiter on Dec. 22, Saturn on the 27th and finally returns to Venus on the very first day of the new year.

2 Responses

  1. Richard Keen

    Bob, thanks for posting that moon chart today. Usually I don’t think much about seeing a 1 day old moon, since there’s some hills (the continental divide, actually) to our west that block the view. But I looked out tonight and there it was, a crescent as slim as a wire. Quite lovely.

    1. astrobob

      Glad you caught it, Richard. I can just picture that bumpy crescent in a saffron haze. Clouds here for now but I’m hoping for clear skies tonight for some comet and double star viewing.

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