Only two days old, the evening crescent’s back. You can catch it tonight 20 minutes to a half-hour after sunset low in the southwestern sky looking about as thin as a bread crust. A little more than one outstretched fist to its left, look for Jupiter in the twilight sky. Tomorrow night, the moon will stand just shy of 3° due north of the planet, when they’ll be in conjunction.
The solar system’s biggest planet and the one with by far the most interesting clouds will only be with us for a few more weeks. Earth’s orbital movement around the sun makes Jupiter appear to move about a degree to the west each night. Despite the put-down, Jupiter puts up a good fight, struggling to outpace the swifter Earth as it moves east in its orbit. Sorry, Charlie. By early November, the planet will be lost in the solar glare and reach conjunction with the sun on Nov. 26. It returns to the morning sky in late December in a wonderful, close conjunction with Mercury on the morning of the solstice.
While we’re on the moon, so to speak, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) today officially approved the naming of two lunar crater to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission — Anders’ Earthrise and 8 Homeward. Anders’ crater is 25 miles (40 km) wide and was previously called Pasteur “T,” an outlier of the much larger Pasteur Crater. 8 Homeward is about 8 miles across (12.5 km) and originally called “Ganskiy M.” It represents wishes for a safe journey home for the Apollo 8 crew. Both craters lie on the far side of the moon.
Appropriately, the newly named craters appear in the foreground of the famous Earthrise photograph taken by astronaut Bill Anders on Dec. 24, 1968. The image became iconic and has even been credited with starting the environmental movement. And why not? Look how lovely and habitable Earth is next to the barren lunar landscape. Anders summed up the photo and mission best:
“We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”