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Observer's Challenge: the Moon and Venus in the evening sky

Venus and the Moon at 6.30pm on Tue 2017 Feb 28.

Over the next few evenings, Venus and the Moon will form a close pairing in the western dusk sky, providing an excellent photographic challenge.

In December and January, encounters of these two objects occurred when the Moon was a substantial crescent. But Venus is now drawing closer to the Sun as its current evening apparition draws to a close. This month's conjunction is taking place only two days after Sunday's new moon and annular solar eclipse, and so only a tiny slither of the Moon will be visible.

This is the last time the two objects will pass one another in the evening sky until 2018: by next month, Venus will have passed solar conjunction to become a morning object.

Venus and the Moon at 6.30pm on Wed 2017 Mar 1.For those who manage to observe the pair, though, there's also an opportunity to catch Mars in the same area of the sky. Uranus is also visible nearby, if you have binoculars or a small telescope.

The three panels to the right show simulations of how the conjunction will appear at 6.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. I have enlarged the Moon by a factor 2.5x to improve its visibility. The Moon will make its closest approach to Venus on Tuesday, but observers will need a very clear western horizon to see it, as it will lie a mere 12 degrees above the horizon.

The Moon will then appear close to Mars at 6.30pm on Wednesday, at a substantially more comfortable altitude of 23 degrees.

Venus and the Moon at 6.30pm on Thur 2017 Mar 2.If you manage to observe either conjunction, we'd love to see your images. Please do post them to your Members Page in the Community area of the site. We'll be watching out for your images and will post some of our favourites below over the next few days.

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