Tonight – September 3, 2016 – starting very shortly after sunset, look for the waxing crescent moon and the planet Venus low in the western sky with binoculars. Venus is very bright and can withstand a fair amount of twilight, so look soon after the sun goes down. If you’re really lucky, you might even see the planet Jupiter below Venus in the western twilight sky.
The moon and Venus rank as the brightest and second-brightest celestial bodies of nighttime, so you might see them both with the eye alone. Just don’t wait too late to see the spectacle. The moon and Venus will both be long gone by nightfall or early evening.
The sky chart at top shows the moon and Venus as viewed from mid-northern latitudes in North America. If you reside in the world’s Eastern Hemisphere – such as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand – you’ll see the moon closer to Venus than we do in North America.
Wherever you may reside worldwide, look first for the waxing crescent moon and then for nearby Venus. Look westward, in the direction of sunset, starting around 20 minutes (or sooner) after sunset. If you miss the moon and Venus this evening, try again after sunset on September 4 and 5. Keep in mind that the illuminated portion of the moon will point in the direction of Venus (and Jupiter).
After this evening, Jupiter will fall sunward whereas Venus will climb away from the glare of sunset. Jupiter will exit the evening sky to enter the morning sky in late September 2016; on the other hand, Venus will remain a fixture of the evening sky until March 2017.
At nightfall, the planets Mars and Saturn sit low in the southwest sky at mid-northern latitudes. (In the Southern Hemisphere, Mars and Saturn shine rather high up in the west.) Day by day, Venus is climbing upward, toward Saturn, while Saturn is descending sunward, toward Venus. Venus will meet up with Saturn to stage a conjunction of these two worlds in the evening sky on October 30, 2016.
Bottom line: Use the waxing crescent moon to guide you to Venus (and possibly Jupiter as well) after sunset on September 3, 2016.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.