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Try for young moon after sunset March 10

Tonight – March 10, 2016 – if you’re far enough west with respect to the International Date Line, you’ve got a good shot at seeing the young waxing crescent moon after sunset. How far west? Well, the Americas are good.

What is the youngest moon you can see with your eye alone?

View larger. Karen Houle of Connecticut managed to capture the whisker-thin evening crescent on March 9, 2016. Karen told us,

View larger. Karen Houle of Connecticut managed to capture the whisker-thin evening crescent on March 9, 2016. Karen told us, “I just barely caught the moon at 6:08pm EST before it went behind the clouds. This puts the moon at 21 hours and 13 minutes past new, which is a new record for me! It was difficult to spot for sure.” Congratulations Karen! That’s an impressive personal record that’ll be hard to break!

On this same date in Europe, Africa, and Asia, the young moon will be somewhat closer to the sunset horizon. Will you see it? Maybe. You’ll need to look very shortly after the sun goes down.

Moon’s setting time in your sky

Meanwhile, from temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere – for example in Australia or New Zealand – you might have to wait until after sunset March 11 to view the evening crescent.

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The waxing crescent moon passing through the constellation Taurus on March 12, 13 and 14.

The waxing crescent moon passing through the constellation Taurus the Bull – near the bright star Aldebaran and the famous Pleiades star cluster – on March 12, 13 and 14.

Much higher up than the moon at present, note the bright star Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster, the two most prominent signposts in the constellation Taurus the Bull, adorning the March evening sky.

Watch, as darkness falls in the days ahead, as the waxing crescent moon climbs upward, towards the Pleiades star cluster, as shown on the sky chart above. The moon will meet up with the Bull on or near March 13.

What is earthshine?

If you draw an imaginary line from the moon through Taurus, going in between Aldebaran and the Pleiades, you can envision the ecliptic with the mind’s-eye. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbital plane projected onto the constellations of the Zodiac. Because the moon orbits Earth on nearly the same plane that Earth orbits the sun, you’ll always find the moon on or near the ecliptic.

View larger. Dinh Nguyen of Santa Fe, New Mexico, also caught the young waxing crescent moon - plus earthshine - after sunset on March 9, 2016. We certainly have some eagle-eyed sky watchers in the EarthSky community! Thank you Dinh Nguyen!

View larger. Dinh Nguyen of Santa Fe, New Mexico, also caught the young waxing crescent moon – plus earthshine – after sunset on March 9, 2016. We certainly have some eagle-eyed sky watchers in the EarthSky community! Thank you Dinh Nguyen!

Once you locate the ecliptic, you can seek out the mysterious zodiacal light some 80 to 120 minutes after sunset. Zodiacal light is actually interplanetary dust reflecting the light of the sun. Because interplanetary dust circles the sun on nearly the same plane that Earth does, watch for this soft, ethereal cone of light to extend upward from the horizon, in the direction of Taurus.

At temperate latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, the ecliptic hits the horizon at a particularly steep angle as darkness falls in March. That’s why mid-northern latitudes have their best chance of catching the zodiacal light in the evening sky at this time of year. At temperate attitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, your best chance for catching the evening zodiacal light comes in September.

Be sure to look for the zodiacal light while the moon is still a rather small crescent. In a day or two, the increasing brightness of waxing moon may well wash the zodiacal light from the evening sky.

For the fun of it, we show the planet Uranus near the young waxing crescent moon after sunset on March 10, 2016. However, you’re not likely to see this faint world with the eye alone. If your sky is exceptionally clear, you might be able catch Uranus through binoculars.

For the fun of it, we show the planet Uranus near the young waxing crescent moon after sunset on March 10, 2016. However, you’re not likely to see this faint world with the eye alone. If your sky is exceptionally clear, you might be able catch Uranus through binoculars.

Bottom line: The young moon returns to the evening sky on March 10 or 11, 2016!

Bruce McClure

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