Moon and Companions

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Moon and Companions
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A couple of prominent companions huddle near the crescent Moon this evening. The planet Mars is close below the Moon. And the Beehive star cluster is about the same distance to the left of the Moon. The view is best after the sky gets nice and dark; binoculars will enhance the view.

Through binoculars, you’ll be able to pick out all the notable features on the entire lunar disk — including the dark part, where it’s night. That’s because a gibbous Earth hangs in the lunar sky right now. It’s many times brighter than a full Moon, so it washes the Moon in reflected sunlight. So even to the eye alone, the dark portion of the Moon is easily visible — it has a pale ghostly appearance.

Binoculars don’t do much to enhance Mars. It looks like a moderately bright star either with or without them. Binoculars ought to show off its color a bit better, though.

But they will make a difference with the Beehive. Without the binoculars, it looks like a hazy patch of light, with perhaps a few individual stars visible to those with sharp eyes. But through binoculars it more closely resembles its name — it looks like a bunch of stellar bees buzzing through the night.

And as a bonus, there’s one bright object that’s visible in the fading twilight: Venus, the brilliant “evening star.” It’s well to the lower right of the Moon, and drops from sight by about the time the sky gets fully dark.

Tomorrow: a nuke for NASA.
 

Script by Damond Benningfield

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