From: Sky and Telescope
Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The brightest planet and the eerie waning crescent Moon will create an arresting sky scene low in the southeast in the early dawn of Monday, February 28th, and Tuesday, March 1st, 2011.
"These are the two brightest astronomical objects in the sky after the Sun," says Alan MacRobert, a senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine. "They'll certainly catch your eye, if you look low in the southeast about 60 to 40 minutes before sunrise -- weather permitting."
Venus will be shining to the Moon's lower left on the morning of Monday Feb. 28th. The next morning Venus will be to the Moon's right or upper right. (See the accompanying graphic.)
Although they look close together, they're not. Venus is currently 400 times farther away than the Moon. It's at a distance of 8.8 light-minutes (the distance light takes to travel that far), compared to the Moon's distance of 1.3 light-seconds. In miles, that's 99 million miles for Venus and just 249,000 for the Moon. (In fact, you may have driven cars enough miles to get to the Moon.)
And despite appearances, Venus is 3-1/2 times wider than the Moon's diameter.
"Why do people care about this?" asks MacRobert. "Because some people know we need to look up beyond our own little world -- and recognize where we are as part of nature, part of the universe. So many of us live our busy little ant-hill lives without ever noticing the gigantic universe beyond the anthill. A lot of people don't even know you can see alien planets from your driveway while you're unlocking the car to go to work."
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For more skywatching information and astronomy news, visit SkyandTelescope.com or pick up Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy since 1941.
Sky Publishing (a New Track Media company) was founded in 1941 by Charles A. Federer Jr. and Helen Spence Federer, the original editors of Sky & Telescope magazine. In addition to Sky & Telescope and SkyandTelescope.com, the company publishes three annuals (Beautiful Universe, SkyWatch, and Popular Astronomy), as well as books, star atlases, and other amateur-astronomy products.
Senior Editor, Sky & Telescope
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Associate Editor, Sky & Telescope
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