…continuedSky Highlights of 2008
October to December
This autumn, Venus is the “star” of the evening sky. Shortly after sunset on October 2nd, can you spot it below and to the right of the crescent Moon? You’ll need a clear southwestern horizon to do so. If you can, then you have a perfect vantage point to follow Venus as it climbs higher with every passing sunset. At the end of each of the final three months of 2008, the crescent Moon joins this brilliant planet to create a beautiful sight in the sunset sky.
During the early hours of October 17th, the nearly full Moon passes through the Pleiades Star Cluster. Observers in the western half of North America have the best view. On the 31st, the crescent Moon returns to the sunset sky and hangs below Venus; November 3rd finds the Moon next to Jupiter.
Every clear evening in November, step outside after sunset to watch the show as Jupiter sinks into the twilight while Venus rises. The grand finale comes on November 30th and December 1st when the crescent Moon sits below, then above, the pair of planets that are now a mere 2 apart.
In 2008 the Moon slices through the Pleiades Star Cluster six times; the final pass occurs on the night of December 10–11. Observers throughout Canada and the United States will be able to watch; the drawback is that the Moon is nearly full. That same full Moon will interfere with the Geminids, of one of the year’s best meteor showers, which peak on the night of December 13–14.
At year-end the post-sunset show continues. Jupiter is very low, but is joined by Mercury and a crescent Moon on December 28th and 29th. As you head out on the evening of the 31st to celebrate the start of 2009, take a moment to again cast your gaze westward. There you’ll see a beautiful sight: brilliant Venus hanging just below the Moon.