viernes, 24 de febrero de 2012

Star gazing tonight

During early nights in late February the thin waxing crescent Moon will pass by the two brightest planets, Jupiter and Venus to form beautiful patterns in the night sky.

Even the most casual stargazers will recognize the Moon, but many people are less familiar with Jupiter and Venus. In late February these two planets are the brightest objects in the western sky shortly after it gets dark. Venus is lower in the sky and brighter than Jupiter in late February and early March.

On the evening of February 24, the thin crescent Moon will be below Venus when the sky darkens. The two planets and the Moon will therefore form a nearly straight line of increasingly brighter objects in the night sky.
On the evening of February 25, the slightly larger crescent Moon will appear near Venus in the early evening sky. Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon will form a long skinny triangle. Venus and the Moon will form the base and Jupiter will be at the tip.

As the Moon continues its orbit around Earth on February 26, the Jupiter, Venus, Moon triangle will reverse its shape to form an upside down skinny triangle. Jupiter and the slightly larger crescent Moon will form the base of the triangle at the top. Venus will form the tip of the downward pointing triangle.
After February 26, the waxing crescent Moon will appear a little larger each night. It will also move eastward of Venus and Jupiter, so that by February 28 the approximately first quarter Moon will appear near the seven sisters of the Pleiades in the night sky.

The bright planets, Jupiter and Venus, make good markers to allow stargazers to observe the Moon's monthly path through the night sky as it cycles through its waxing phases.
Many people think that the Moon's phases result from Earth's shadow falling on the Moon. As appealing as this idea sounds, it is incorrect. The crescent Moon, so low in the western sky just after the Sun sets in the west, is a simple observation showing that Earth's shadow can not cause lunar phases. As seen from Earth, both the Sun and Moon are in approximately the same direction in the sky. Hence Earth's shadow can not possibly be falling on the Moon. The relative positions of the Sun, Earth, and Moon showing differing amounts of the day and night sides of the Moon cause the Moon's phases.
Enjoy the Moon, Jupiter, and Venus.

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