Sky trio for you, Southern Hemisphere friends

Sky trio: Map of the night sky with ecliptic and bright objects, with arrows indicating their paths.
View larger. | This chart shows the sky trio – the young moon, Mercury and star Antares – on the evening of November 15, 2023, for latitude 35 degrees south, longitude 160 degrees east, in other words, around Australia and New Zealand. Image via Guy Ottewell. Used with permission.

Sometimes we get notes from people in Australia and New Zealand – who are across the International Date Line – that they wish we’d provide our charts a day earlier. This chart is for you!

Via Guy Ottewell’s blog. Re-printed with permission. Edits by EarthSky.

There’ll be a pretty gathering of three objects low in the west after sunset on November 15, 2023. But the meetup is more likely to be seen from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. As the young moon – a waxing crescent in the evening sky – climbs away from the sun, it’ll pass close to Mercury and the red star Antares.

Why Southern Hemisphere? Don’t we all see the same sky? We do, to a large extent. But our orientation – from our various parts of Earth – gives us a varying perspective on the sky. And – for all of us around the globe right now – the moon, Antares and Mercury are now low in the evening sky, in the west only shortly after sunset. From the Southern Hemisphere now, the ecliptic (pathway of the sun, moon and planets) makes a reasonably steep angle with the western evening horizon, placing the trio above the sunset. But the moon, Mercury and Antares are all on a part of the ecliptic that slopes south from where the sun now is. And this fact depresses the view still more for Northern Hemisphere observers.

So our scene this time is drawn for a location that approximates Australia and New Zealand.

The 2024 lunar calendars are here! Best Christmas gifts in the universe! Check ’em out here.

The moment when this trio of bright bodies is tightest – fitting within a circle of diameter just over 4 degrees – is at 21 UTC on November 14. But they are then still so low in the western sky, only about 17 degrees from the sun, that the following evening probably gives a better chance of spotting them.

What’s more, on November 15, the crescent of the moon will be slightly thicker and easier to see. Good luck spotting this pretty sky scene.

Bottom line: A tight grouping of the waxing crescent moon, planet Mercury and red star Antares appears in this chart showing the trio as seen from Australia and New Zealand on the evening of November 15, 2023. Be sure to look as soon as possible after sunset!

November 14, 2023

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