Do you know the old song, “How High The Moon”? Neither do I, it was before my time. But that would be a good tune this coming week. We’ll see the year’s highest Moon on the equinox. Welcome spring!
March 19: Moon Shines Above Mars and Aldebaran,
First things first. If it’s clear, look up this Friday night, March 19 at nightfall. The waxing crescent Moon is closely accompanied by two orange stars.
Crane your neck around an hour after sunset, and certainly before 9 PM.
First, find the fat crescent Moon. (It’s traveling in front of the constellation Taurus the Bull.)
Look to the right, just below the Moon. That bright orange “star” is the planet Mars, still bright and still managing to linger on after its super-brilliant close approach last fall.
Look to the lower left below the Moon. That other orange body dangling beneath the Moon, is a true star, the famous Aldebaran, which forms the angry eye of Taurus the Bull. It should appear a little brighter than Mars.
And, wow! The Moon is never straight up from anywhere in the US except for Hawaii and the Florida Keys. But Sunday night it comes closest to standing smack on the zenith. It misses the straight-up position by only 15 to 20 degrees, depending on your location.
The sun’s annual highpoint happens on the solstice, June 21, of course. But the Moon hits ITS highest position at the spring equinox, next weekend. So on Sunday night, the Moon at sunset will occupy the same position as the midday solstitial Sun.
On the equinox, you’ll then cast your shortest possible Moon shadow. That’s because the First Quarter Moon “leads” the Sun by three months.
There’s more. The first quarter also happens to be the phase showing the finest lunar detail through any telescope. So if you have one, uplevel the experience from a simple naked-eye appreciation of its unusual overhead height to the knockout experience of optimally illuminated craters and its mountain ranges.
Bring along your friends or kids. No one will be disappointed.