The Moon Covers the Maiden’ Eyes
After last Friday’s Full Wolf Moon and penumbral lunar eclipse, this week skywatchers around the world will see the moon wane in phase and rise later as it journeys through the third week of its monthly orbit of Earth. That will leave evening skies delightfully dark for evening stargazing.
The moon will pass into the constellation of Virgo (the Maiden) after spending nights among the stars of Leo at the beginning of the week. Late on Tuesday evening, observers in parts of the world will see the moon cross in front of (or occult) a medium-bright star designated ν Virginis (ν Virgo, Nu Virginis or 3 Virginis), which marks the maiden’s head, or her eyes. ν Virginis is a red-hued star with an apparent visual magnitude of 4.04 that can be seen with the naked eye. At approximately 11:38 pm EST (04:38 am UTC), the leading, bright edge of the moon will pass over the star. At 12:26 am EST (05:26 am UTC), the star will suddenly reappear from behind the dark, opposite edge of the moon. Observers located south of about 35° N latitude will only see the moon skim past the star.
Exact timings will vary by location, so check the stargazing app Star Walk 2 to see whether the event is visible in your area and find out the best time for observing. To do this, set your location in the application menu, and choose the date and time in the ‘Time Machine’ in the upper right corner of the screen.
From Wednesday to Friday, the waning moon will rise after midnight among the stars of the large constellation of Virgo. On Friday morning at 7:58 am EST (12:58 pm UTC), the moon will reach its last quarter phase worldwide – when it will make a 90 degree angle with the sun and appear with a half-illuminated disk. As with first quarter moons, last quarter moons are beautiful sights in binoculars and telescopes – because sunlight is arriving at a shallow angle and casting long, black shadows from every bump and ridge on the moon’s rugged surface.
During the week, the moon will become a pretty, slender crescent shining over the southeastern horizon before dawn. It will persist into the daytime morning sky, too.
Keep looking up and enjoy the sky with Star Walk 2!