More Moon and Venus
The evening sky bids farewell to the old year tonight with a beautiful display -- a close pairing of the crescent Moon and the planet Venus. And to perk things up a bit, two more planets line up below them, standing side by side as the last rays of twilight fade from view.
The Moon itself is beautiful all on its own. The Sun illuminates a tiny sliver of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way, creating the bright crescent. As the Moon descends the southwestern sky, it'll shine through an ever-thicker layer of air, coloring the crescent in shades of gold and orange.
And as twilight begins to drain away, the dark part of the Moon will shine, too -- lit up by sunlight reflecting off of Earth. This "earthshine" gives the Moon a ghostly appearance.
Venus is the brilliant "evening star" a little below or to the lower left of the Moon as they pop into view.
The two other planets hunker far below Venus and the Moon, quite low in the southwest, and drop from view not long after it gets dark. The brighter one is Jupiter, with Mercury to its left. Jupiter is the brightest object in the night sky after Venus and the Moon, so you shouldn't have any trouble spotting it.
So enjoy the beautiful sky on what we hope will be a festive but safe New Year's Eve.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.