The Smiling Moon, Venus, Mars on October 17

Conjunction-itis with the Smile-Moon

Oct 12, 2017
Crescent Moon Smile
NASA

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Maybe you’ve already seen it. Low in the east, just before dawn—say at 6:15 or so—is the brightest “star” in the heavens. It’s been hovering there for months, generating UFO reports. It’s the Morning Star, Venus. Yes, really and truly, Venus is single-handedly responsible for more UFO sightings than any other object.

(Even then-governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia phoned the state police to report a UFO that proved to be Venus.)

Mars, Venus, and the Moon

Just above dazzling Venus is a much-fainter orange “star”—and this is Mars. That they’re so close together makes it a worthy conjunction. But it’s about to get even better.

Before sunrise on Tuesday, October 17, look toward the eastern sky again. The waning crescent Moon will join the party and hover closely to the left of Mars, and above Venus. What a sight!

As dawn approaches, Mars will disappear in the glare and the Moon and Venus shine as the brightest objects in the sky (besides our Sun).

Click here to get the rising times for the Moon, Sun, Mars, and Venus in your sky.

A Smiling Moon

There’s more. The Moon’s horns will point straight up, making it look more like a smile than at any other night of the entire year. Because, usually, the Moon’s crescent is tilted on its side to some degree, like an archer’s bow. But not Tuesday.

The very next morning, the Moon will be a thinner crescent and much lower, and now dangle beneath Venus. That’s Wednesday morning, still at that same 6 or 6:30 AM time frame.

Earthshine

Still more cool stuff? Okay, notice that, both mornings, the dark part of the Moon will be vividly glowing. This is Earthshine, traditionally called “The new Moon in the old Moon’s Arms.” 

It’s sometimes also called the “Ashen Light.” What’s really happening is that, those mornings, if you lived on the Moon, you’d see the Earth in your sky appearing very nearly full. And a “full Earth” is dazzling. It’s 40 times brighter than the Full Moon looks in our own sky. Bright enough to cover the Moon’s dark portion with Earth-light. Thus that glow is us! Our own planet’s illumination, bouncing back for our own narcissistic enjoyment.

Read more in “What is Earthshine?“ 

So any morning: See Venus and Mars, both on the far side of the Sun. And Tuesday they’re joined by the year’s only smiling Moon. And Earthshine. All in the east. Worth setting the alarm.

 

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Wondering which bright objects you’re seeing in the night sky? Want to learn about a breathtaking sight coming up? Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, we’ll cover everything under the Sun (and Moon)!

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Fascinating

Dear Bob,

I read your write up about the weather, moon and stars. You make it fascinating. Where can I find the weather forecast on the day I was born in 1953? Maybe too far away.

Thanks.

Tess

Weather History

Hi Tess,

Thanks for writing! You can see historical weather forecasts with our Weather History tool. Simply plug in your ZIP code and a date of your choosing.

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