I was about to go home when I caught a glimpse of Venus and the thin Moon hanging close together in the western sky at dusk last January 26.
I didn’t have a camera with me then. Fortunately, a friend of mine had his camera and let me use it to take a few images of this stunning sight.
Venus is now shining brilliantly in the west-southwest after sunset at magnitude -4.0. It will be climbing higher in our sky over the next three months as it comes closer to us in its orbit. Over that time the planet will brighten but its phase will shrink as the Sun shifts to the other side of Venus from us.
By February 2012, Venus will climb up higher into the evening sky and will stay out even longer after dark. It’ll be at its highest above the sunset in March 2012, when Jupiter and Venus will stage an amazing conjunction in the western twilight sky. These two bright planets will lie about three degrees apart in the West in the constellation Aries. Venus will beam at magnitude -4.3, and Jupiter is a worthy companion at magnitude -2.1. The pairing will make for a lovely photo op. 🙂
On March 25, Venus, Jupiter and the thin crescent Moon will form a straight line in the western sky.
Clear skies! 🙂
Last Jan. 25, Saturn, Spica and the Moon formed a beautiful triangular celestial grouping. During the following days, early risers can watch the waning crescent Moon pass bright Venus, with Antares and Scorpius looking on. Check southeastern sky a few hours before sunrise.
Location of the Moon in the predawn sky for the next few days:
Jan. 29 — Moon is near the red star Antares in the constellation Scorpius
Jan. 30 — Venus and Crescent Moon are almost 5 degrees apart
Jan. 31 — Moon will be located just above the “Teapot” asterism in Sagittarius
Feb. 1 — Moon and Mercury will be less than 10 degrees from each other
This is a good opportunity to spot these celestial objects because of their proximity with one another and because of their perfect location within the prominent constellations. Clear skies! 🙂
Reference: Stellarium Planetarium Software
The final mornings of 2010 (during Dec. 30 and 31) will feature the waning crescent moon with the planets Mercury, Venus and Saturn in the eastern sky before sunrise.
Depending on where you live worldwide, Venus and the moon will rise above the eastern horizon some 3 to 4 hours before sunrise, to light up the wee morning hours until daybreak. For Philippine observers, the screenshot from Stellarium above shows that the Moon – Venus separation is ~20 degrees on December 30, 2010. During this time, the moon will also be ~20 degrees below Saturn. The bright stars Spica in Virgo and Arcturus in Bootes could also be found within this celestial grouping.
Venus is very bright and easy to find. If you look at Venus with a telescope before dawn, you’ll see this planet shining as a wide waxing crescent.
By December 31, the moon and Venus will shine nearly side by side with only 10 degrees of angular separation. Also on this date, Mercury which was in evening dusk during early December will now be in the predawn sky, closer to the horizon. In the screenshot above, it was ~8 degrees above the horizon and ~25 degrees away from Venus. December 2010 provides you with the unique opportunity to catch Mercury in both the evening and morning sky in a single month. Using binoculars will help you see this tiny planet.
Clear skies to all! 🙂
Note: The general rule amateur astronomers use is that the width of your fist from top to bottom held at arm’s length equals about 10 degrees. Read more about this here.
For Philippine skygazers, here is another celestial grouping before the month of August ends. 😀
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Venus and Mars will team up with the star Spica (the brightest star of the constellation Virgo) to stage this year’s closest celestial trio – three heavenly bodies fitting within a circle smaller than 5 degrees in diameter. A typical binocular field covers about 5 degrees of sky, and you might catch all three snuggling within a single binocular field in the early evening from end of August until early September.
Unfortunately for the northern hemisphere, the threesome sets at very early evening. Dazzling Venus is easy to see, but Mars and Spica tantalize at the threshold of visibility. The best viewing window opens up from around 45 to 75 minutes after sunset. Have binoculars handy!
After the trio sets in the west, look for the blazing planet Jupiter to rise in the east. After rising, this wonderfully brilliant world will be out all night long!