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The Moon and Venus together on December 3

The planets and the Moon often have close encounters creating excellent photo opportunities as they do so. On November 25 Jupiter lay under 2 degrees from a thin crescent old Moon in the morning sky and in early December another lunar / planetary encounter moves to a more civilised hour in the evening sky, this time involving the young Moon and the planet Venus.

Brilliant Venus has been dominating the late afternoon / early evening sky for some weeks now, no doubt giving UFO excitement to some gullible non-astronomers (I speak from experience here) and on December 3 it lies 5.5 degree south of a thin crescent Moon in the late afternoon.

The Moon is new on November 29 and on December 3 will show a phase of 16% while Venus, a searing beacon at magnitude -4.2, will be gibbous with a phase of 68%. From mid-UK latitudes at 16:30 UTC Venus will be only 12 degrees up (slightly greater than a closed wrist at arm’s length) so you will need a clear south-western horizon. The Sun sets on this date at 15:47 with the end of civil twilight 1 hour later. Venus will set around 18:45 and the Moon at 19:35.

If the weather obliges this will be a lovely event to observe with nothing more than your own eyes but small binoculars, 7x50s with a typical field of 7 degrees or 8x30s with a field around 8.5 degrees, could make the event even more spectacular. Let’s hope for a clear sky.