SKYWATCH: Earthshine is striking and beautiful – catch it while you can

IF YOU don’t mind getting up early – or are still up at 5am after a good night out – you can enjoy seeing Venus blazing in the east before dawn, writes STUART ATKINSON. It looks like a very bright silvery-white star to the naked eye, so bright you can see why it was sometimes known as the Morning Star in years gone by.

Venus has company in that part of the sky too. If your sky is still clear at 6am you’ll see Venus is on the end of a line of planets, with Mars to its lower left and Mercury to the lower left of Mars. Definitely worth setting your alarm clock for a view of three worlds in a row, like beads on a wire.

This coming weekend the Moon will return to the sky. If no clouds get in the way you’ll see it as a beautiful slender crescent – what any people call a New Moon – low in the south west after sunset. As the sky darkens on Saturday and Sunday night we should see the dark part of the Moon’s face shining softly too, glowing with a very subtle reddish-blue hue. This is called Earthshine because what we’re seeing is the Moon being illuminated by sunlight reflecting off Earth. If you have a pair of binoculars Earthshine is very striking and beautiful. However, we only see it for a couple of days before the part of the Moon directly lit by the Sun becomes so bright it overwhelms the more subtle Earthshine. So, by Monday evening, it will have gone. Catch it while you can.

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