Tomorrow evening (6 April) will offer an excellent chance from the UK to view an extremely young Moon, as long as the weather plays ball. With an age of less than 17 hours, just the merest sliver of a crescent will be displayed.
As pointed out in the April issue of the British magazine Astronomy Now, the Moon will stand less than 9° above the horizon at sunset which occurs at around 7.50pm BST.
This is higher than usual for such a young Moon, partly because its path through the sky, the ecliptic, is inclined steeply to the horizon in the evening at this time of the year from mid-northern latitudes.
But on top of that, the Moon’s orbit is inclined 5.2° to the ecliptic and will be at the most northerly point in its orbit in the sector where the thin crescent occurs.
Even better, the Moon will be near perigee – the point where it is closest to the Earth and consequently appears slightly larger in the sky. It moves faster when closer to Earth and so will also be at a slightly greater angular distance from the Sun than otherwise.
Finding the Moon will still be a challenge a few hours later after sunset over locations in the US and Canada.
If you are looking for the Moon with a telescope or binoculars, be careful to wait until the Sun has set or completely disappeared beneath the rooftops. On no account should you ever try to find it while there is any danger of the Sun damaging your eyes.
The opportunity of another spectacle involving the Moon occurs on Tuesday evening. It will lie very close to the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus, otherwise known as the Seven Sisters. Observers in the north-east of the US and eastern Canada can see the Moon cover some stars in the cluster – termed an occultation – if it is clear.
Picture: An image of the Moon at 19.50 BST as displayed by the computer planetarium program Starry Night.
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