The evening sky holds many wonders — but few are as wondrous as getting to see some of the brightest objects in our sky all clustered together. Such was the case Wednesday night when the crescent moon was accompanied by the brightest planets in our sky along with the constellation Orion and the bright star Sirius — an amazing site that you may be able to catch again this evening if you look to the west after the sun sets.
The crescent moon is growing in size each night, so it’s called a waxing crescent. (In the image above, the 30-second exposure time has caused the moon to appear a bit smeared, hiding its crescent shape.) To the lower-right of the moon are the two brightest planets in our sky, Venus and Jupiter. Venus is the brightest object in our sky, other than the moon and our own sun. Jupiter, the next brightest, is the largest planet in our solar system, and if you use binoculars, you can easily see several of its moons.
My favorite constellation of all, Orion (sometimes called The Hunter) is easy to identify with its classic shape seen in the image above. Betelgeuse (think of the 80s movie Beetlejuice) is a red supergiant star, and you can see its reddish-orange tint even with your naked eye. The three stars that create Orion’s belt point you to the star called Sirius (yes, I am serious). It is an amazingly beautiful star that is actually a binary star system (two stars orbiting each other). Sirius is the brightest star in our sky other than our own sun. If you watch it you will notice that is flashes brilliantly through a variety of colors. This process, called scintillation, is visible with the naked eye as well as through binoculars.
So here’s hoping for good visibility tonight! I hope that you get the chance to get outside and see the beautiful site. As we get into the warmer months, reduced visibility from haze and late day thunderstorms will make such clear viewing of the night sky more difficult.