Saturday, May 19, 2007

The night sky will hold a particularly spectacular sight tonight as a close conjunction between the waxing crescent Moon and the planet Venus will occur in the sky across most of North America. The two bodies will be at about a degree of separation, and the Moon will appear to the right of Venus. The "dark" of the Moon will also be visible due to the phenomenon known as "Earthshine", and the entire lunar globe will be visible as a blueish grey globe. Events such as these often bring a flurry of UFO reports to local authorities and astronomers. The point of closest approach will occur at 9:55 pm here in Winnipeg (sunset is at 9:12 pm) with bodies well up in the sky at 26 degrees. The event will occur later in the East, but the Moon and Venus will be much closer to the horizon there. As you move further to the West the Moon and Venus will be higher in the sky, but the point of closest approach will occur before sunset. In Edmonton, for instance the Sun will set at 9:33 pm while the closest approach will be at 8:41 pm. The conjunction, however, will still be visible and well worth viewing. Where the event occurs at the proper time one can see the two bodies approach each other and then draw apart.
The conjunction of the Moon and Venus occurs on the flags of many Islamic nations such as Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, Algeria, Mauritania and Tunisia. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge used it as an "ominous portent" in 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'.
At the present time Venus, when viewed through binoculars appears as a gibbous disc. At the beginning of June it will have evolved into a "half-moon" phase, and in July it will present as a crescent.

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