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The Moon and the Planets

The Moon and Mars


This photo captures that rare astronomical event which occurs when the Moon's path along the ecliptic takes it in front of another planet.

In this case the planet was Mars, and the spectacularly earthlit crescent moon hung eerily before its occultation victim. The "extinguishing" of Mars took just over five seconds. Through telescopes and binoculars the event was very interesting to watch.

Another fairly regular meeting in the sky occurs when the Moon passes Venus, either in the morning sky or the evening sky. Because of its brightness, Venus makes a wonderful partner for the Moon. After eight year, the pattern of meetings repeats itself, something which may have been recorded in the Stone Age.


Moon and Venus
Moon and Venus

The slender crescent moon and Venus in twilight. Is this the 'cow and calf' of ancient myth? The eight-year Moon-Venus interval was studied at Knowth.

The star and crescent is a very ancient symbol. It is featured on the town crest of Drogheda, which is at the gateway to the historic Boyne River.


On December 29th, 2000, the bright waxing crescent moon hung high in the western sky over Ireland, having spent three days hugging the sun - and in fact eclipsing the sun over parts of northern America on Christmas Day, Dec. 25th, 2000.

But when the moon emerged from darkness it was greeted by a bright "evening star" - Venus. The two planets provided a spectacular sight to brighten up the dark December nights.

At this time Venus was quite high in the evening sky, and was magnitude minus 4.3, presenting through telescopes a sort of half-globe resembling the gibbous phase of the Moon. It has often been said that Venus is bright enough to cast shadows at night - this is certainly true if one views it from a very dark site. But Venus can also be tracked during daylight, if one knows exactly where to look.

The next time Venus will be met by the moon high in the western sky will be around May 2002. In this photo the moon is shining through a thin veil of high cloud.

The Moon and Venus

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All information and photos, except where otherwise stated, copyright, © Anthony Murphy, 1999-2015
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