The moon was new on the 20th so this week we’ll begin to see the barely visible waxing crescent moon low in the west after sundown. On Sunday, the 23rd, look for the crescent moon, about 17% illuminated, and the bright star Spica, lucida (brightest star in a given constellation) of Virgo. Look toward the horizon, and a little west and you may see Saturn, and possibly Mercury, especially if you are viewing with binoculars.
After moonset, in the deepening twilight, brilliant Jupiter will show rising southeast in faint Capricornus. At the meridian, majestic Scorpius, the celestial Scorpion. Each day this week the moon rises later, and of course sets later, and more of the illuminated portion of the disk is revealed. First quarter is on the 26th. By Thursday, the 27th, the moon with be in Scorpius. Antares, the bright heart of Scorpius – a ruddy colored star, often mistaken for Mars – will show close, just to the right of the moon, now in it’s gibbous phase (gibbous: more than half illuminated, still waxing toward full.)
Next week the moon has a close encounter with Jupiter.
I love looking at the moon. Most star-gazers disdain the inconstant moon… yes, of course, it’s light steals the beauty of the night sky, of the indigo night, quoting the poem that gave us a name. But it’s just so beautiful. We forget. When I take the time to really look at the moon I still get that childish delight and amazement, that quickening, especially when I see the rise or set against a landscape or seascape. A brief meditation, and the flat disk, pie plate in the sky moon emerges as a sphere, it’s beautiful roundness an affirmation in satellite of our own world.
This is especially true with Earthshine. This is when the dark portion of a thin crescent moon is dimly lit by light reflected from earth — primarily clouds. This happens mostly when the moon is new, or near new, and stands between the earth and the sun. Here, the full face of the earth reflects light onto the moon – much more so than if the moon is off to the side or opposite the sun, at first quarter, full and or last quarter. All this reflected light falls on the dark side of the moon, filling the inky black shadow with soft light, a low level luminous haze. Texture emerges. The dark outer edge gains in definition, and it’s easier to see the moon as a sphere. The reflected light adds to the direct light that falls on the crescent arc as well, and in photographs you’ll see this as a beautiful radiant glow, just off the scale.
Earthshine, or the new moon in the old moon’s arms usually visible in twilight when the moon is in it’s crescent phase.
[This photograph is by Ilmari Karoned. It was taken in Helsinki on 21 July 2006. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license]. And I’ll leave you with this, for no particular reason: They dined on mince, and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon; and hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon, the moon, they danced by the light of the moon. E Lear.