The near miss of Venus and the moon after the sunset Feb. 27 captured a lot of attention with its spectacular beauty. At sunrise Wednesday, Venus won't be so lucky as the crescent moon approaches, then eclipses Venus for nearly an hour. Early risers can enjoy the show without optical aid, although binoculars will enhance the view.

Jimmy Westlake

The near miss of Venus and the moon after the sunset Feb. 27 captured a lot of attention with its spectacular beauty. At sunrise Wednesday, Venus won't be so lucky as the crescent moon approaches, then eclipses Venus for nearly an hour. Early risers can enjoy the show without optical aid, although binoculars will enhance the view.

Jimmy Westlake: Moon to eclipse Venus

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Jimmy Westlake

Jimmy Westlake's Celestial News column appears Tuesdays in the Steamboat Today.

Find more columns by Westlake here.

Imagine the two brightest objects in the night sky, the moon and Venus, being so close together that you could cover them both with the tip of your pinky finger at arm's length. Then, picture a bright meteor streaking by while you are enjoying the moon-Venus show. Finally, imagine aiming your binoculars at the famous Double Star Cluster in Perseus only to see the glow of a green comet nearby. Hey, you're not dreaming. This celestial triple-header will become a reality in the pre-dawn sky Wednesday.

The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks every year on the morning of April 22 as the Earth sweeps through the dusty wake of Comet Thatcher. A patient observer can expect to see 10 to 20 bright Lyrid meteors streak across the sky each hour that morning before dawn, but stay alert, because the Lyrids have on occasion produced unexpected bursts of activity many times that rate. The meteors will seem to fan out from a point near the bright star Vega, high in the Northeast sky before dawn.

Comet Yi-SWAN is a recently discovered comet visiting the inner solar system for the first time, we think. It will not become visible to the unaided eye, but it will be an easy object to see through binoculars or a small telescope as it passes through the constellations of Cassiopeia and Perseus this month.

On the magic morning of April 22, Comet Yi-SWAN will appear in the same binocular field as the well-known Double Star Cluster in Perseus. The cluster itself is easily visible to the unaided eye, just below the familiar "W" shaped pattern of Cassiopeia in the Northeast sky.

But, the main event Wednesday morning is the rare close conjunction and occultation of the dazzling planet Venus by the slender waxing crescent moon. When the pair breaks the eastern horizon about 4:50 a.m. MT, it will resemble a celestial diamond ring with Venus just off of the moon's bright cusp. Keep watching, though, because as the sky brightens with the rising sun, the moon actually will occult, or eclipse, Venus starting about 6:20 a.m. With binoculars, you should be able to spot Venus as it reappears during daylight from behind the moon's dark edge at about 7:16 a.m. Strong binoculars or a small telescope also should show the crescent phase of the planet Venus as the moon gobbles it up. Just be sure that you have a clear, unobstructed view of the eastern sky to watch the occultation.

On Monday, the weather forecast for Wednesday morning looked great. If the sky is clear, you won't regret rising a little early to catch this celestial triple-header.

Professor Jimmy Westlake teaches astronomy and physics at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus. He is an avid astronomer whose photographs and articles have been published around the world. His "Celestial News" column appears weekly in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. His "Cosmic Moment" radio spots can be heard on local radio station KFMU. Also, check out Jimmy's Web site at www.jwestlake.com.

Comments

Ann Holmes 5 years, 8 months ago

Thanks so much Jimmy! It was well worth getting up to see Venus slide behind the crescent moon this morning. For once the clouds were out of the way to see what you describe. Although there was too much pre-dawn glow to see the rest of the triple header, watching Venus move sideways behind the moon was fantastic. Keep up the excellent advice on celestrial phenomena! Thanks again!

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JLM 5 years, 8 months ago

It's George W Bush's fault. This is an inherited phenomenon from the prior administration.

President Obama speaking from a teleprompter in the Oval Office: "The movement of Venus behind the moon was caused by the failed policies of the last 8 years. My administration will ensure that Venus is returned to its rightful place in the heavens. To do anything less would be to fail on my promises of hope, change and transparency.

I fully support the Congress' initiative to hold hearings into this troubling development and applaud Speaker Pelosi's attention to this galactic problem. The wrongdoers will be brought to justice and the laws of astronomy will be enforced. We are a galaxy of laws and not eclipses.

I apologize to the entire galaxy, the Milky Way, and any other galaxies who have been offended by Venus' action. It is all America's fault that we have allowed such eclipses to occur and in the future we will be more receptive to the plans of other planets as they move through our skies.

People of the world and life on other planets should know that my adminnistration will not rest until every earthling and galactic life form is again able to view Venus. To do less would be criminal."

The administration is holding a pre-dawn rally on the Mall complete with a performance by Stevie Wonder to show its support for Venus during these trying times. Rahm Emanuel will be in charge of visuals. Camera angles will be designed to avoid photographing the Casseiopeia "W" in the northeast sky. Hot latte w/ skim soy will be served.

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knee_dropper 5 years, 8 months ago

That make you feel better JLM? Sheesh, get over it, McCain lost and Obama is your commander in chief for the next four years. Time to put on your big girl panties, suck it up and deal with it. Back on topic, thanks again for the celestial heads up Jimmy!

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trump_suit 5 years, 8 months ago

~grin~ I thought that was funny JLM.... You and I don't always agree, but that was well done I thought..

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JLM 5 years, 8 months ago

knee man ---

Hey, loosen up, have a bit of fun. Obama is my commander in chief. Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Fell better now?

JLM

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