Our Friend, the Crescent Moon
This week's crescent Moon is extra special. On Halloween night, October 31, see the brightest "star" next to the Moon? That's Jupiter! Then on November 1 and November 2, the Moon travels to Saturn for another planet meet-up. Here are Bob's viewing tips.
The crescent is the shape most associated with a celestial object. Sure, the full Moon is circular, but when we think of a circle we have so many possible links from eye-pupils to wedding rings that the shape simply doesn't possess an off-Earth connotation. The crescent is different. Bays and beaches and bananas assume that shape, but our first and deepest connection is with the Moon.
The Moon is a crescent whenever it is closer to the Sun than we are. This means it is always located in the sunward direction, and thus isn't visible at midnight. It's seen within a few hours of twilight.
Halloween: The Moon Passes Jupiter
On October 31, Halloween, that dazzling "star" right next to the crescent Moon is Jupiter! Just look up as darkness falls and watch the Moon pass by the King Planet.
All Saints Day: The Moon Meets Saturn
On November 1 and 2, a larger crescent Moon will have passed Jupiter to go visit beautiful Saturn! Now the nearest "star" to the Moon is the ringed planet! Jupiter sits below the Moon and Saturn, fairly close to the horizon.
So the Moon now serves as a kind of usher or guide to those two largest planets, which are about to vanish until well into next year. If you own any kind of telescope this is your last chance to enjoy Jupiter's four moons and dark equatorial belts, and for you to drool at Saturn's amazing rings.
Again, the time to look is nightfall. What could be easier? If you don't own a telescope dig out those old binoculars that are gathering dust somewhere. They're not powerful enough to display Saturn's rings, but if steadily braced will reveal Jupiter's moons.
And wait till you see the crescent Moon through them. It's a joy to behold.