Tonight presents a great view of the western sky as the young lunar crescent comes out at dusk, and then the Pleiades cluster and the star Aldebaran join up with the moon at dark. Catch the threesome at early evening – the whole kit and caboodle will follow the sun beneath the horizon a short while after nightfall.
Look in the west first thing after sunset to spot the thin waxing crescent moon. As seen from North America at nightfall, the moon shines roughly midway between the Pleiades and Aldebaran. Sometimes, the moon can occult – cover over – some Pleiades’ stars or occult Aldebaran … but not tonight. The moon won’t occult Aldebaran again until January 29, 2015, or next occult Alcyone (Pleiades’ brightest star) until September 5, 2023.
If you are looking up and see a brilliant reddish-orange star near the Pleiades, that’s Aldebaran, the Bull’s Eye in the constellation Taurus the Bull. The Pleiades cluster marks the Bull’s shoulder.
The stars of Pleiades make up an open star cluster. These are truly sister stars because they formed out the same cloud of gas and dust in space. They are still moving as a group through the galaxy. However, instead of seven muses as in the Greek myth, there are some 500 stars in the Pleiades star cluster, visible to astronomers with telescopes.
If you have a pair of binoculars or a small telescope this is a great time to use them. Crescent moons give better views of craters and mountains. Plus, you can glimpse some of the other stars in the Pleiades.
Take it all in this early evening, as the slender crescent moon passes in between the Pleiades cluster and Aldebaran this Monday night.
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