Courtesy of EarthSky
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Tonight, the waxing gibbous moon shines in front of the constellation Aries the Ram. As seen from mid-northern latitudes at nightfall and early evening, you’ll find the moon high in your southern sky, and the three stars outlining the head of the Ram shining to the right or upper right of the moon. These Aries’ stars are Hamal, Sheratan and Mesarthim.
Hamal is the brightest of these three stars, though none is a particularly bright. No doubt, the moonlit glare will tarnish the luster of Aries’ bust tonight. The dimmest star – Mesarthim – will be especially hard to see in the moonlight. However, you can always use binoculars to view the Ram’s starlit bust. Very conveniently, all three head stars fit – or nearly fit – into a single binocular field of view.
Sometimes, people mistake Aries’ two brightest stars, Hamal and Sheratan, for the constellation Gemini’s two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux. However, Castor and Pollux are considerably brighter than the two brightest stars in Aries. Looking ahead, the moon will be close to Castor and Pollux on the nights of January 18 and January 19.
Tonight’s moon approximates the sun’s position in front of Aries for late April. Every year, the sun passes through this constellation from about April 19 to May 13.
Written by Bruce McClure