Press ReleaseFrom Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute:
(February 5, 2014) – Astronomers at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Rosman, NC, report that on the morning of February 26, observers enjoying the sunrise will note that the brilliant planet Venus appears very close to the waning crescent moon. While we realize that Venus is far beyond the Moon in the three dimensional sky, it will look to us from our perspective here on terra firma that Venus and the Moon are almost touching, Venus only 0.4 degrees south of the Moon, less than the diameter of the Moon itself.
Venus, of course, is revolving around the Sun in an orbit closer to the Sun than the Earth’s. On the morning of February 26 Venus will be around 45 million miles from the Earth. The Moon, on the other hand, is much closer since it is orbiting the Earth itself. On that same morning the Moon will be a mere 230,000 miles from us or about 200 times closer than the queen of the planets.
The Moon revolves around the Earth in just a month so its passing by the planets one at a time is not particularly noteworthy. Each month as it circles the zodiac in the sky, the Moon passes the planets which all lie in the zodiac. What is a bit unusual on February 26 is simply how close the two appear. In fact, if you were to observe this event from the western or central Africa, India or southeast Asia, you would actually observe the Moon move in front of Venus. Astronomers call this an occultation.
So, watch these two as they dance in the morning twilight. It will be a fleeting event since by the next morning, the Moon will have moved well below the “Morning Star” as it heads to New Moon on March 1. Happy observing!
PARI is a public not-for-profit public foundation established in 1998. Located in the Pisgah National Forest southwest of Asheville, NC, PARI offers educational programs at all levels, from K-12 through post-graduate research. For more information about PARI and its programs, visit www.pari.edu. Follow PARI on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Astronomy_PARI. “Like” PARI on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Pisgah.Astronomical.Research.Institute.