Moon and Pleiades
The Moon takes aim at one of the most popular objects in the sky tonight: the Pleiades. They rise in mid-evening, and soar high across the sky during the night. The Moon will move closer to the little star cluster as the hours roll by.
In mythology, the Pleiades is known as the Seven Sisters. Oddly enough, though, only six of its stars are easily visible to the unaided eye. They form a tiny dipper shape that's often mistaken for the Little Dipper. But the real dipper is in the north, anchored by the North Star.
If you're able to see more than six stars in the Pleiades, the odds are you'll see more than one extra -- you're likely to see eight or more. So why the cluster is known as the seven sisters is something of a mystery.
To see the Pleiades tonight, you might want binoculars. The glare of the gibbous Moon will make it tough to spot the stars. But it's worth a look, because as the night wears on, the distance between the Moon and stars will shrink. And eventually, the Moon will appear to roll across the northern edge of the cluster, covering up some of the stars.
The exact view and timing depends on your location. From the East Coast, the closest approach is shortly before dawn. From farther west, it's a little earlier. And the distance between the Moon and the Pleiades will be less for skywatchers at more northerly locations.
No matter where you are, though, it should be a grand sight -- the Moon and the starry sisters.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.