Waxing moon still close to Venus after sunset
Tonight for March 28, 2012
The moon waxes and the planet Venus wanes in the evening sky on March 28, 2012. No matter where you are on Earth, shortly after sunset tonight, look for Venus and Jupiter to blaze beneath the waxing crescent moon in the western twilight. Jupiter is beginning to sink into the sunset. How we’ll miss it! But Venus will remain visible for about two more months in the evening sky.
March 2012 guide to the five visible planets
New research! Earth usually has more than one moon
Tonight's sky scene as witnessed earlier today (March 28, 2012) by in Whitehaven, northwestern England by EarthSky Facebook friend Adrian Strand. Thank you Adrian!
Between August 16, 2011 and now, Venus was traveling eastward (and upward) from the setting sun. March 2012 has been amazing for seeing Venus and Jupiter together in the evening sky. Then Venus reached its greatest distance from the sun on our sky’s dome yesterday, March 27.
Now changing course, Venus is starting to go westward (and plunge downward) toward the sunset. Jupiter has been descending toward the west all along. It’ll disappear first. Venus should be gone from our western evening sky by late May 2012.
On June 5-6, 2012 (depending on your time zone), Venus will swing between the Earth and the sun, to pass into the morning sky. Early risers will probably first see Venus as the morning “star” at dawn by late June or July.
Waxing crescent moon on March 28, 2012 as seen in the U.K. by EarthSky Facebook friend Fay Knight in the U.K. Glad you got your camera back, Fay! And thanks.
Click here to expand image at right
If you had a telescope, and used it to peer at Venus tonight, you’d find this planet at last quarter phase – looking like half a pie. Venus always exhibits a half-lit quarter phase around the time it’s farthest from the sun.
Presently, through a telescope, Venus looks like a first quarter moon – half-lit in sunshine and half-engulfed in its own shadow. However, there’s a major difference between Venus at evening quarter and the evening quarter moon. The evening quarter moon always thickens into a waxing gibbous moon, whereas the evening quarter Venus always thins into a waning crescent.
That’s the case with Venus now. Its phase is waning – or growing smaller.
When Venus passes from the evening to the morning sky on June 5-6, it’ll swing directly in front of the sun. It’ll actually appear as a black dot in front of the solar disk (though you’ll need eye protection to view it safely). This is called a transit of Venus.
Transits of Venus are extremely rare, happening only two times in the 21st century (2001-2100) and not at all in the 20th century (1901-2000).
Last transit of Venus in 21st century will happen in June 2012
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Bottom line: As you view the moon, Venus and Jupiter in the western twilight after sunset on March 28, keep in mind that Jupiter will soon disappear into the sun’s glare. Meanwhile, the moon is waxing, and Venus is waning in the evening sky.