Moon and Companions

StarDate: September 10, 2010

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A beautiful but lopsided kite sails low across the western sky early this evening. It sets not long after the sky gets good and dark, so there's not much time to look for it.

The brightest point of the kite is the Moon. It's a thin crescent right now, which means that it's nighttime across most of the hemisphere that faces our way.

As the sky darkens, though, the "dark" portion of the lunar disk shines through -- the result of "earthshine" -- sunlight reflected off of Earth. If you were standing on the Moon, an almost-full Earth would shine big and bright, lighting up the night far more brightly than a full Moon does here on Earth.

The "tail" of the kite is to the upper left of the Moon, and it's easy to pick out, too. It's Venus, the dazzling "evening star." It far outshines all the other planets and stars in the night sky, so you won't have any trouble finding it.

The other two corners of the kite are much fainter, and don't show up until the twilight begins to fade away. They're the star Spica, which is to the upper right of the Moon, and the planet Mars, a little higher above the Moon. Spica's brighter than Mars, but it's also a little lower in the sky, so it takes some work to find both of these objects.

To help out, we've posted a chart on our freshly updated and redesigned website: stardate.org.

If you miss the show tonight, try again tomorrow night, when the Moon will move to the left of Venus. We'll have more about that lineup tomorrow.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010

 

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

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