You may have noticed a very bright star low in the west after sunset. It was very low at Christmas, but now it is much higher in the western sky. It is not really a star — it is the planet Venus.
I took the attached pictures looking west at twilight on the day after
Christmas at the Convent of the Sacred Heart. The statue of St. Michael is in the foreground with brilliant Venus and the crescent Moon in the background.
Venus will get much brighter and higher in the west over the next few months. It will then sink back into the west as it passes between the Earth and the Sun. It will pass in front of the Sun on June 5, 2012 in what is called a transit. A Venus transit is very rare and there will not be another in our lifetime. I’ll speak more of the Venus transit as June approaches.
The crescent Moon in this picture is displaying earthshine. Earthshine is sunlight reflected off the Earth that illuminates the night side of the Moon. Earthshine is best seen when the Moon is a thin crescent because at that time the Earth’s phase is nearly full as seen from the moon. Can you imagine how bright the Earth would be as seen from the Moon? The Earth would be four times bigger than
the moon appears in our sky. The white clouds in our atmosphere would reflect a high percentage of light. That would surely be something to see!
The close up picture gives a better view of the earthshine on the Moon, but the wide angle picture is a better representation of the natural beauty in this twilight scene.