A lucky few stargazers who were up just before 3am today, got to see the Waning Crescent Moon climb over the eastern horizon. Viewed from London, the thin, silvery sliver rose at about 2.57am and sailed across the sky until set at about 3.24pm. And right under the Moon appeared a very bright object that has left some wondering what this mystery star could be.
One person tweeted: “@BruceMcCurdy what planet/star is shining so bright under the Crescent Moon?”
Another person said: “Has anyone else noticed the really bright star in the sky tonight or is it just me?”
So what is going on in our skies this week? What is the bright star?
The bright light following the Moon is not a star but rather the planet Venus.
And although Venus is sometimes known as the Evening or Morning Star, it does emit any light of its own.
Instead, Venus is the third brightest body in out skies, after the Sun and the Moon, because it is extremely reflective.
And the planet is not alone this week, as it will appear to the left and above Moon on Friday morning alongside Mercury, the innermost planet of our system.
How to see Venus, Mercury and the Moon this week
Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere should keep their eyes peeled on the eastern horizon in the predawn hours.
When viewed from London, for example, the Moon will rise on Friday, November 13, at about 4.23am GMT.
Then, look for Venus to the left of the Moon and Mercuy right below it.
Astronomer Bruce McClure of earthsky.org explained: “You simply can’t miss dazzling Venus, because this world ranks as the third-brightest heavenly body, after the sun and the Moon.
“Look for Mercury beneath Venus and closer to the horizon.
“Mercury is more easily viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, where it rises well over an hour before sunrise.”
Inbetween Venus and Mercury you will also see another bright object: the star Spica.
Spica or α Virginis is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.
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It is among the 20 brightest stars in our night skies.
And that is not all, because the star Arcturus will be visible to the left of the Moon, Venus, Mercury and Spica.
Arcturus or α Boötis, is the brightest star in the constellation Boötes.
Arcturus also has the honour of being the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, and the fourth-brightest star overall.
David Blanchflower, a UK-based astrophotographer, tweeted: “Final reminder tomorrow morning there will be a conjunction of the Slivery Waning Crescent Moon with Venus and Mercury. Look South East after 5.45am.”
Why is Venus so bright?
Venus is the brightest of our solar system’s planets thanks to its high albedo or factor of reflectiveness.
The planet is shrouded in a thick blanket of greenhouse gasses that reflect up to 70 percent of al sunlight that falls on it.
This makes the planet incredibly bright but on the downside, it means we cannot see Venus’s surface with our telescopes.
The US space agency NASA said: “Venus is one of the brightest objects in the sky.
“It is always found near the Sun. It rises and sets each day, so it has the nicknames Morning and Evening Star.”z
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