Making Beauty With The Moon

The crescent moon and Venus appear in a gap between cirrus clouds just after sunset last night. Bob King

Last night, we had a chance to see one of the finest conjunctions of the year. The moon and Venus looked incredible together. I happened to catch sight of the crescent just before sundown with Venus already bright and obvious 1½° to its left. Nearby, cirrus clouds caught the last solar rays and glowed with intense scarlet and coral hues. 10 minutes later the colors had drained away, leaving the duo entangled in gray wisps.

Around 10:30 p.m., not long before the pair set, Venus and the moon were a cozy 1° or just two moon diameters apart. Notice how obvious the earthshine is in a darker sky. Earthshine is sunlight reflected from the Earth to the moon, which reflects it back again to our eyes. Bob King

More than hour later, I looked again. Not only had the moon settled closer to the western horizon, but it was considerably closer to Venus; only 1° parted the two shiny lights. Because the moon travels to the east (to the left viewed from the northern hemisphere) at the rate of one moon diameter an hour, it closed the distance between itself and Venus from sunset till moonset.

Seen in near-darkness, moon and planet were a magnetic draw, and I and a million others couldn’t resist the pull.

Follow the moon this month to celestial treasures. The map shows the sky facing south at nightfall. Stellarium

The moon has a rich week-plus of conjunctions ahead, swinging from one planet to the next like a kid on monkey bars. Mercury was the first bar, followed by Venus on Saturday. Jupiter’s next on July 20, then Saturn (July 24) and finally Mars (July 26). All the while, the moon’s phase waxes from crescent to nearly full. If it’s clear just look up any of these nights for an eyeful!

2 Responses

    1. astrobob

      Thanks, Marcos! I only wished it had been calm. The wind was very strong when taking the picture!

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