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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Earth & Sky: Whimsy in the Sky: Moon and Venus

By Deborah Byrd

Here’s the most delicate and winsome scene you’ll see in the sky all this month – maybe all this year. It’s the brightest planet Venus – now only a few days past being at its very brightest for this evening apparition – near the waxing crescent moon in the evening sky.

Of course, Venus and the moon aren’t really near each other in space. I’ve heard this sort of celestial scene described as being no more meaningful than if, for example, you were walking down a street one evening and happened to spy a streetlight and a porch light near each other, along a single line of sight. Cynics might say that! And it’s true that Venus and the moon just happen to be located now along a single line of sight – more or less – as seen from Earth.

It’s also true these chance juxtapositions on our sky’s dome happen frequently. In my years of writing about the sky, I’ll bet I’ve written about planets near the moon hundreds of times.

And yet these celestial scenes remain touching to the heart and spirit. These distant bodies – shining with reflected sunlight – near each other on our sky’s dome never fail to delight. Is it because they are shining, and shining objects occupy a special category in our perceptions? Is it because they are so far away, so that they spark a special place in our imaginations? Is it simply because they’re beautiful to gaze upon? Look outside tonight for Venus and the moon.

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