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Catch young moon and planet Jupiter again on March 3

2014-march-3-moon-dusk-night-sky-chart

Tonight for March 3, 2014

If your sky is clear, you should be able to see the young waxing crescent moon smiling at you in the western evening dusk on March 3, 2014. The Northern Hemisphere is favored for this view (because the moon is lower in the sky after sunset and sets sooner after the sun, as seen from the Southern Hemisphere). Meanwhile, the dazzling planet Jupiter shines high in the south at dusk and early evening. Each evening after sunset, watch for the waxing moon climb upward toward Jupiter, to pair up with this brilliant beauty of a planet on March 9 and 10.

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Look for Jupiter high in the south at dusk/nightfall throughout March 2014.

Look for Jupiter high in the south at dusk/nightfall throughout March 2014.

The young moon smiles in the west after sunset when the ecliptic intersects the horizon at a steep angle,. It's a waxing moon, showing more of its day side each evening.

The young moon smiles in the west after sunset when the ecliptic intersects the horizon at a steep angle,. It’s a waxing moon, showing more of its day side each evening.

March is a great time to see the young moon because the ecliptic – plane of the solar system – is nearly perpendicular to the horizon on March evenings, as seen from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. Meanwhile, from the Southern Hemisphere tonight, this young moon won’t be as easy to see, due to the shallow angle of ecliptic as seen from the southern half of Earth on March evenings.

To see tonight’s young moon, it helps to have a level and unobstructed western horizon, especially from the Southern Hemisphere. If you don’t know which way west is, just remember it’s the sunset direction. But don’t wait around. The moon won’t stay out that long after nightfall, even at northerly latitudes

Meanwhile, folks at middle latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere – for example, South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – won’t see the moon quite as easily after sunset. So why is the young moon more visible in the Northern Hemisphere? It’s because we are rather close to the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, but it’s equally close to the autumn equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. On late winter/early spring evenings, the ecliptic – the pathway of the sun, moon, and planets – hits the horizon at the steepest angle for the year. But on late summer/early autumn evenings, the ecliptic hits the horizon at its shallowest angle. So at southerly latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, it’ll harder to catch tonight’s moon.

View larger Ben Coffman wrote,

View larger. | Ben Coffman wrote in early March 2014, “Hi, EarthSky, I managed to catch some zodiacal light just after sunset at the Oregon coast and thought I’d share the photo with you. As far as I recall, this was my first time seeing zodiacal light, and I only knew what it was because of some of your past articles–thanks! And thanks for checking out the photo!” Thank you Ben!

Late winter/early spring evenings also present the best time to see the zodiacal light after dusk, and earthshine on the nighttime side of the waxing crescent moon. You can double your pleasure tonight by catching the young moon at dusk and nightfall, and then the zodiacal light after dark (80 to 120 minutes after sunset)! After tonight, the brightening waxing moon may start to obscure the zodiacal light.

Bottom line: If blessed with an unobstructed western horizon and clear sky on March 3, 2014, you should catch the waxing crescent moon in the west after sunset.

What’s the youngest moon you can see?

March 2014 guide to the five visible planets

When can you see earthshine on a crescent moon?