Moon, Spica, and Venus

StarDate: November 13, 2009

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The crescent Moon is one of the most beautiful sights in the night sky all on its own. It's low in the sky, so it's usually colored orange or gold. And "earthshine" illuminates the dark part of the disk with a ghostly glow.

But it's especially beautiful when it teams up with a bright star or planet. And early tomorrow, it teams up with both.

As the Moon clears the eastern horizon a couple of hours before sunrise, Spica is just to its upper left. It's one of the brightest stars in the night sky, so it's hard to miss.

Spica's most often associated with spring and summer, because that's when it appears in the evening sky. But it's actually in view at some time of night throughout most of the year. The only time we can't see Spica is in October, when the Sun passes by it. But by early November, it's back in view in the early morning sky, as it is now.

Over the months, Spica will rise about four minutes earlier each night, so it'll climb higher into the sky each morning.

As the dawn begins to color the sky, the planet Venus rises below the Moon and Spica. It's the brightest object in the night sky after the Moon itself. But it's so low that it could be tough to find -- buildings or trees along the horizon will eclipse it. And you don't have long to look for Venus -- the rising Sun will quickly blot it from view.

Again, look for Spica quite near the Moon at first light tomorrow, with Venus below them.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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