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Not One but Two Crescents Shine on Evening Skywatchers

Last night the crescent moon joined a teeny tiny crescent Venus at dusk. Tonight you can watch for them again. While no optical aid is needed to enjoy a lunar crescent, Venus needs a helping hand. If you have binoculars that magnify at...

Last night the crescent moon joined a teeny tiny crescent Venus at dusk. Tonight you can watch for them again. While no optical aid is needed to enjoy a lunar crescent, Venus needs a helping hand. If you have binoculars that magnify at least 7x, point them at the planet and you'll see a miniature replica of tonight's crescent moon.

It's a sight not to miss. Why? Venus is rapidly approaching the sun from our perspective and will soon pass between Earth and the sun. As the angle it makes to the sun narrows, we see less and less of the planet illuminated by sunlight until little is left but a skinny crescent. It's a big crescent too because Venus is the closest it's been to Earth since June 2012.

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Comet next Saturday Jan.11, the planet undergoes inferior conjunction when it slides between sun and Earth. You won't see it that day or for a week or two after as the planet will be lost in the sun's glare. By about the 20th, Venus will "switch side", rising in the east before sunrise. That's why now is the time to catch the waning Venusian crescent before it's too late.

While we're on the topic of sickle-shaped celestial objects, even Earth can look like a crescent moon from the right perspective. The photo was taken by the GOES-13 East weather satellite on New Year's Day from geostationary orbit  from a distance of about 22,200 miles (36,000 km).

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