Spica near the moon August 3, 4 and 5

Chart showing three moons and one dot labeled Spica.
Look for Spica shining near the moon on the evenings of August 3, 4 and 5. Spica is the brightest star in Virgo the Maiden. The moon is waxing and reaches first quarter phase on August 5 at 11:06 UTC. Chart via John Jardine Goss / EarthSky.

Watch for Spica near the moon

A pairing of the moon and a bright star is always a lovely sight. Plus, the moon can be an excellent guide to locating stars and planets.

On the evening of August 3, once the nighttime sky is dark and full of stars, look for the waxing crescent moon shining brightly near the star Spica. Spica is the only 1st magnitude star in Virgo the Maiden and lies very near the ecliptic, or path of the planets.

Then the next two evenings, August 4 and 5, the moon moves away from Spica and continues waxing until reaching first quarter phase. By the way, the moon constantly moves eastward in front of background stars about a half degree per hour. Which is, incidentally, the same width as a full moon.

The moon reaches first quarter phase on August 5 at 11:06 UTC.

You’ll also notice a bright, orangish star higher in the sky. That star is Arcturus. When the moon moves on, Arcturus can be your guide to find Spica.

A look at Virgo’s brightest star

Spica, a blue-white star, is the 15th brightest star in our nighttime sky. When you consider that Spica resides some 260 light-years from our solar system, this star must be intrinsically very luminous to shine at 1st magnitude brightness in Earth’s sky.

Because Spica is only two degrees from the ecliptic, occasionally the moon will occult – pass in front of – Spica. The next series of the moon passing in front of Spica starts in 2024 when the moon will occult Spica each month – 20 times. Wow!

For more great observing events in the coming weeks, visit EarthSky’s night sky guide

Bottom line: Use the waxing moon on August 3, 4, and 5, 2022, to locate the bright star Spica.

August 3, 2022

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