The semicolon may be the most misunderstand and least used of the punctuation marks. Periods and commas are a dime a dozen. Exclamation points are overused. But when and where do you stick a semicolon? A semicolon looks like a period stacked on top of a comma and is used to separate two related sentences or clauses. It’s stronger than a comma but doesn’t come to a full stop like a colon. Think of it as a way link thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way.
This weekend, the returning crescent moon and planet Venus together make a celestial semicolon in the sky. My friend Larry Weber, who is a phenologist and educator, pointed out the similarity in a recent local radio broadcast.
On Saturday evening, December 28, if you face southwest at dusk, Venus will be the period shining atop a comma moon. Only 2.3° or a little more than four full-moon diameters separate them, making a beautiful and most fitting sight — what better way to transition from the old year into the new that by linking them with this heavenly punctuation mark?
As far as linking the moon and Venus, these two disparate bodies have little in common. One is a super-hot planet with a dense atmosphere and eternal clouds; the other a much smaller, naked ball of rock without any atmosphere to speak of. But as you may have just discovered, I linked them anyway with a sneaky semicolon.
Tonight, December 27, you’ll be able to see the moon and Venus before they assemble into a useful punctuation mark. The moon will be a strikingly thin crescent with long, willowy cusps well below Venus and 5° east (left) of much fainter Saturn. Go out about a half-hour after sundown and look low in the southwestern sky for the moon, not quite two days past new. You’ll probably need binoculars to see Saturn, but Venus will be obvious.
Wishing you a well-connected, semicolon kind of New Year with exclamation marks of joy!