The waxing crescent moon and the blazing planet Venus shine low in the west at dusk on November 5, and follow the sun beneath the horizon shortly after nightfall. Our chart shows the sky scene for roughly one hour after sundown at mid-northern latitudes. If you miss the moon with Venus this evening, try again tomorrow, on November 6. On Wednesday, a somewhat wider lunar crescent will appear higher in the sky and will set later after sunset.
Whenever the moon appears in the west at dusk and early evening, it’s always a waxing crescent moon. In contrast, Venus always exhibits a waning phase whenever it pops out in the west after the sun goes down. At present, Venus shines as a waning crescent, though its phase is only slightly past its half-lit waning quarter phase. Waning means the illuminated portion is getting thinner by the day. Crescent means Venus’ disk is less than 50% covered over in sunshine.
You need a telescope to observe Venus’ phases. Its disk is now about 47% illuminated in sunshine. However, when Venus reaches its greatest brilliancy in the evening sky on December 6, 2013, Venus’ illuminated portion will only be about one-quarter (25%) lit up in sunlight. By the beginning of the New Year, at the start of January 2014, it’ll only be around 3% illuminated by sunshine. Twilight presents the best time to observe the crescent through the telescope – before the glare of Venus becomes too overpowering.
Venus is the most fun to watch when it’s a thin crescent, because that’s when this world comes closest to Earth and looms largest in the telescope. At our mid-northern latitudes, Venus shines fairly low in the evening twilight, so we need an unobstructed horizon to catch this luminary after sunset. Southern Hemisphere observers have an easier time of it right now because the crescent Venus shines much higher in their sky at sundown.
As always, the moon waxes toward full and Venus wanes toward new in the evening sky.