Moon and Venus

StarDate: January 27, 2014

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A beautiful skywatching treat greets early risers the next couple of mornings: a close pairing of the crescent Moon and the “morning star.” They’re quite low in the sky at the first blush of dawn. But they’re so bright that they remain quite visible long after most of the other points of light have become lost in the waxing twilight.

The “morning star” isn’t really a star at all, of course — it’s Venus, the next planet inward from our own. It passed between Earth and the Sun earlier this month, moving from evening sky to morning sky as it did so.

Through a telescope, Venus looks like a near-copy of the Moon — a thin crescent, with its points aiming in the same direction as the Moon’s. Over the next few months, though, Venus will grow fatter. But it’ll also move farther away from us as it does so, so it won’t get any brighter than it is right now.

While Venus is moving away from the Sun in our sky, the Moon is dropping toward it. So its crescent will grow even thinner before the Moon disappears entirely in the Sun’s glare. It’ll return to view in the evening sky by Friday. Then as now, you’ll be able to see more than just the crescent. The rest of the lunar disk will be basking in the glow of earthshine — sunlight reflected from our own Earth.

Look for the glowing Moon near the glowing planet Venus the next couple of mornings. Venus will be close to the left or lower left of the Moon tomorrow, and above it on Wednesday.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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

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