A few days ago, I wrote about the new moon: that time of the month when there is no visible moonlight in our night sky. We are in that phase right now. During this time, the Earth, the moon and the sun line up in an almost straight line.
The order is important and the setup has a name: a conjunction. The opposite event is called a lunar opposition: when the sun, the Earth and the moon, again in that order, are approximately in a straight line. When that takes place, and it does at least once a month, we’re treated to a full moon.
The word conjunction can also be used to describe an apparent phenomenon caused by the observer’s perspective. When two planets appear to pass each other in the night sky, the event is known as a planetary conjunction or an appulse.
This type of conjunction will take place this weekend. Once the rain clouds clear, we should be all set to witness a Venus/lunar conjunction. Friday, June 15, and again Saturday evening, the crescent moon will pass by Venus in the sunset sky. In this case, the conjunction involves two objects that from our perspective here on Earth, will appear to come quite close together.
There are many celestial events that take place long after our bedtime, but this is one dark sky event that won’t keep you up all night. The best time to check it out is just before the twilight fades to black.
While you’re out there, why not check out another bright light in our night sky: Jupiter. The largest planet in our solar system rises well before sunset but don’t bother looking for it until late evening. You should find it quite easily in the east-southeast. Jupiter sets after 3 a.m. in the west-southwest.
Happy sky watching!
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.