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This Week: A Special Crescent Moon Sighting

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This Week: A Special Crescent Moon Sighting

The Moon is certainly the most versatile and dependable subject to observe. Its motion, phases, and larger surface features are clearly visible to the unaided eye.  And as much as we know about it, there are still many questions to ask about this mysterious and awe-inspiring celestial world.

Have you ever wondered, for example, how soon after the dark New Moon can the thin sliver of a waxing crescent Moon be seen?  The record seems to be 14.5 hours. But you would need an absolutely clear, unobstructed horizon (and binoculars probably) to break that record.

On Tuesday evening, February 28th, you just might find the razor-thin sliver of the Moon low near the western horizon just after sunset.  That Moon will then be about 32 hours past new.  If you’re ambitious, watch also for the effect called earthshine, a faint bluish-gray glow seen within the thin crescent Moon (sometimes called “the old Moon in the new Moon’s arms”).

Finally, here is an interesting trivia question: just how much brighter is a full Moon compared to a half Moon?  The answer will surprise you.  It’s not twice as bright, but eleven times as bright!  Why is that? It’s due to the microscopic roughness of the Moon’s surface.  A half Moon is heavily shadowed, even on its illuminated half.  The Full Moon is completely illuminated.  The Sun shines straight down even into almost all the microscopic crevices.  There are virtually no shadows at all.

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Do you have a burning question about the Moon? Ask us in the comments below and we’ll answer it!

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