29 January 2014

New Moon and Mercury at Dusk

Mercury and a Young Moon
Elusive Mercury springs into view as January comes to an end, emerging in the glare of dusk this week. The very thin crescent Moon emerges at the same time, and a careful observer with a clear western horizon (and a good pair of binoculars) will have a lovely sight to enjoy. I enjoy seeing the stars and Moon emerge from the glare of the sunset, and when I have a clear view of the sky to the west after sunset I also look backwards to experience the Belt of Venus as it rises on the opposite horizon and envelops the eastern horizon.

24 January 2014

Old Moon at Dawn

Old Moon at Dawn
The early morning sky this week features an old Moon fading each day into the sunrise, passing landmarks in our sky as it fades. The Moon follows a path across the sky that parallels the planets, so there are frequent encounters between the Moon and planets, and on the 25th that features the planet Saturn, not positioned in the east before sunrise. Saturn is gradually moving from the constellation Libra into Scorpius over the next few years, but the Moon makes that same move across the sky in a few days, passing by the bright orange heart of the Scorpion, Antares, one of the biggest stars in the entire galaxy.

You will need a good eastern horizon to see the fullness of Scorpius and the Moon’s path on the 26th and 27th but if you are up early you will have a treat seeing these bright objects shining in the morning darkness.

02 January 2014

Crescent Moon and Crescent Venus

Two Crescents
The evening sky features two crescents this week, that of the waxing Moon and waning Venus. The Moon's phases are quite familiar to all, but Venus goes through similar phases for similar reasons, and we can observe it from more than just the 'full' phase as we do with outer planets such as Jupiter and Saturn. Venus waxes and wanes like the Moon. This week as it comes close to inferior conjunction, it will resemble the Moon when viewed through a telescope or binoculars. You'll need a clear and low western horizon to see this view shortly after sunset.

More details on EarthSky: http://earthsky.org/space/as-2014-begins-venus-a-thin-crescent-in-bright-twilighthttp://earthsky.org/space/as-2014-begins-venus-a-thin-crescent-in-bright-twilight

Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope.