See young moon, Venus after sunset

We give you fair warning. You may – or may not – catch the whisker-thin young waxing crescent moon (and/or the planet Saturn) beneath the dazzling planet Venus at dusk/nightfall December 27, 2019. After all, it was only recently – December 26, 2019, at 5:13 UTC – that the moon turned new and swept directly in front of the sun to stage an annular “ring of fire” eclipse. Even so, we expect a number of people in the Americas to catch the moon after sunset December 27, where the lunar crescent sets well over one hour after the sun.

Read more: Annular solar eclipse on December 26

View larger. | Last year, April Singer caught the young moon after sunset on December 8, 2018, with Saturn to its upper left. This year, you’ll see Venus instead of Saturn to the upper left of the moon (from northerly latitudes). Northern New Mexico, U.S. Photo by April Singer Photography. Way to go, April!

But we’re hardly counting out the world’s Eastern Hemisphere, which may also catch a young(er) and slender(er) crescent after sunset December 27. From virtually everyplace worldwide, the moon will be better than one day (24 hours) old as the sun sets on December 27. It is usually quite difficult to see a moon that’s less than one day (24 hours) old, and generally easier – though still a challenge – to spot a thin moon that’s over a day old.

Day and night sides of Earth one day after December 2019 new moon.

Day and night sides of Earth one day after new moon (2019 December 27 at 5:13 UTC). The shadow line at the far right and far left depicts sunset. As the line of sunset moves westward (right to left) across the globe, the moon continually edges farther away from the glare of sunset. The moon will be about 1 1/2 days old at sunset in western Europe and Africa, and about 1 3/4 days old as the sun sets in the Americas. Image via EarthView.

No matter where you live worldwide, you’ll have a better chance of spotting the moon on December 28, because a wider crescent will stay out longer after sundown on December 28 than on December 27. Additionally, the moon will be closer to Venus on December 28, offering a more stunning view of the flashy evening couple. By the way, although we show the planet Saturn on our sky chart above, it’ll take a deliberate effort (and possibly binoculars) to spot this world in the glare of evening twilight.

To maximize your chances of spotting the beautiful evening crescent (and/or Saturn), find an unobstructed horizon in the direction of sunset. A lofty position – atop a mountain or balcony – would help out as well, enabling you to peek a little farther over the horizon. Binoculars come in handy, too, for teasing out the pale, skinny crescent (or Saturn) from the glare of evening twilight.

Want to know when the moon sets in your sky? The Sunrise and Sunset Calendar gives you the moonset time – but remember to check the Moonrise and moonset box.

Want to know the moon’s position relative to the bright planets and the constellations of the zodiac? Then your wish is granted, courtesy of Heavens Above!

When the moon shows itself as a slender waxing crescent in Earth’s sky, then our planet beams a nearly-full waning gibbous Earth in the moon’s sky. The almost-full Earth, like a mirror, reflects sunlight and lights up the moon’s dark side. The moon, in turn, reflects sunlight back to Earth. Hence, that soft luminescence giving definition to the nighttime side of the moon is earthshine – twice-reflected sunlight. Look for soft glow of earthshine, with either the unaided eye or binoculars, on the dark side of the moon over the next several days.

View larger A fine example of earthshine on the crescent moon, courtesy of the European Southern Observatory. That “star” to the lower left of the moon is actually the planet Venus.

Think photo opportunity, as the brightest and second-brightest celestial bodies of nighttime – the moon and Venus, respectively – beautify the evening twilight shortly after sunset.

Bruce McClure