From around the world, the waning crescent moon will pair up with the bright star Spica – after midnight and before dawn – on the morning on December 27, 2013. The planet Mars is also nearby. Spica is the brightest star in constellation Virgo the Maiden. If you are up well past midnight, look for them all low in the southeast, where they’ll be just beginning their ascent into our sky. Otherwise, you can wake up before dawn to view the moon, Spica and Mars.
What do the three charts on this page mean? They all look a little different, but they’re all showing the night sky after moonrise and before dawn on December 27.
The red planet Mars shines in front of Spica’s constellation Virgo and will continue to do so for many months to come, vying with Spica as the constellation’s brightest star-like object. Tomorrow morning, on December 27, it’ll be fairly easy to tell which light is Spica and which is Mars because Spica lodges closer to the moon.
Also, once the moon moves away from Virgo in a few more days, you’ll easily see the difference between Spica and Mars in color. Spica radiates blue-white while Mars looks reddish. Binoculars help to accentuate the colors of these two objects, and of all the stars.
If you’re familiar with the Big Dipper, you can use this recognizable star formation to star-hop to Virgo and the red planet Mars. Use the handle of the Big Dipper to arc to Arcturus and to spike Spica – and to find Mars throughout winter and spring of 2014.
By the way, folks in northeastern Scandinavia and northwestern Russia can watch the moon occult –cover over – Spica in the predawn darkness tomorrow, on December 27. Click here for details.
Bottom line: The waning crescent moon will be closely aligned with Spica on the great dome of sky in the wee hours before dawn on December 27, 2013. The red planet Mars is nearby.