Elizabeth Cunningham answers a Big Question from a caller seeing two crescent moons.
Elizabeth Cunningham: Hello. I’m Dr. Elizabeth Cunningham, and I’m here to try and answer Laura’s question about something strange that she saw in the night sky.
Laura: Hello. My name is Laura and I’m observing the crescent moon and it looks as if there’s another one directly behind it. There’s a double glow exactly the same size, and I’ve been watching it for the last half an hour and it makes it look as if the moon’s out of focus, but it’s not. There’s actually two and no, I don’t do drugs and no, I haven’t been drinking. And I’m in Buckingham, and the skies are completely clear, and I’m devastated because I don’t know who to call and where to find out what’s going on.
Elizabeth: So thank you for your question, Laura. I’m very pleased to be able to solve this mystery for you.
We received your call on the 25th February when the moon was right next to Venus in the western sky. Venus is so bright at the moment that you can see it during twilight before the sky is properly dark, and it looked amazing next to the moon that night.
Over the next few weeks you will be able to see several planets. Venus won’t be next to the moon again until the 25th March, but you can see this bright planet in the western sky every evening until mid-May.
For the next couple of weeks, you will be able to see another bright object in the sky just above Venus, and that’s the planet Jupiter. As the days pass, these two planets will get closer and closer until the 14th March when they’ll be right next to each other in the sky.
You can also see another planet if you turn your back on Venus and Jupiter and look east: you should be able to make out a bright orangey red light in the sky which is Mars. So there are three planets easily visible with the naked eye in the sky at the moment.
Now if you want to find out for yourself when and where planets are going to appear in the sky, then I recommend using the free planetarium software: Stellarium and this is free to download from stellarium.org and can show you the sky at any time, any date, and any location.
So I hope this reassures Laura that she wasn’t seeing things, and encourages everybody else to have a look for some planets in the night sky over the next few weeks.