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Young moon, Mars and Aldebaran

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Tonight – April 27, 2017 – the young waxing crescent moon appears but briefly after sunset and then follows the sun beneath the horizon shortly thereafter. Click here, and check the moonrise and moonset box, to find out when the moon sets in your sky. It’s possible, depending on where you live on the globe, that you won’t see the evening crescent until after sunset tomorrow, on April 28.

From everywhere worldwide, the waxing crescent moon is traveling in front of the constellation Taurus the Bull over the next several days. However, our feature sky chart at top shows the sky scene as viewed from mid-northern North American latitudes. From the world’s Eastern Hemisphere – Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand – the moon’s position is somewhat offset toward the previous date.

The ecliptic - the sun's yearly path through the constellations of the Zodiac - passes through the constellation Taurus the Bull, to the north of the star Aldebaran and to the south of the Pleiades stars cluster. The sun shines in front of Taurus from about May 14 to June 21.

The ecliptic – the sun’s yearly path through the constellations of the zodiac – passes through the constellation Taurus the Bull, to the north of the star Aldebaran and to the south of the Pleiades stars cluster. The sun shines in front of Taurus from about May 14 to June 21.

The moon passes rather close to the red star Aldebaran and the ruddy planet Mars over the next few days. However, Aldebaran shines twice as brilliantly as Mars does. So if you see only one starlike object near the moon at nightfall for the next few nights, it’s probably Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull. You might actually need binoculars to spot Mars.

By the way, you’ll almost certainly need binoculars for any chance of catching the Pleiades star cluster. In fact, the sun will be having its annual conjunction with this cluster in about three weeks, on or near May 19.

In North America, we’ll see the moon to the west of (or below) Aldebaran at nightfall April 27 and to the east of (or above) Aldebaran at nightfall April 28. But if you live at just the right spot in northern Africa or Eastern Europe, you can watch the moon occult – pass right in front of – Aldebaran at nightfall on April 28. The star will disappear behind the moon’s nighttime side and reappear on its daytime side. Click here for more information.

Bottom line: At nightfall on April 27, 2017 – and for the next several days – watch the waxing crescent moon swing by the red planet Mars and the ruddy star Aldebaran.

Bruce McClure

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