See A Crescent Moon Cradle Venus And Shoot A Star-Trail: The Night Sky This Week

See A Crescent Moon Cradle Venus And Shoot A Star-Trail: The Night Sky This Week

Each Monday, I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.

The Night Sky This Week: December 4-10, 2023

With the full “Beaver Moon” now almost a week ago, the night skies have become dark again. The moon reaches its Last Quarter phase on Tuesday, which means it rises after midnight for the remainder of the week. Cue dark moonless skies ideal for stargazing. It’s also a great week for catching a glimpse of a couple of planets. The most beautiful sight will be a crescent moon hanging closely to Venus, but that’s a pre-sunrise sight. More convenient for most will be a rare view of Mercury, though you’ll have to act quickly—the window is short, but at least it’s after sunset.


Here’s everything you need to know about stargazing and the night sky this week:

Tuesday, December 5: The Brightest Last Quarter Moon Of 2023

Today, our satellite will reach its Last Quarter or “half moon” phase, rising after midnight and clearing the way for 10 nights of dark, moonless skies. However, there’s something special about this one. Although all quarter moons are slightly more than 50% illuminated, this one is the most illuminated of 2023, according to

Wednesday-Friday, December 6-8: Mercury Highest In The Evening Sky

Today, the solar system’s smallest planet reaches the highest it gets in the night sky. To catch it—using binoculars—you’ll need to look about 10 degrees above the southwest horizon about 30 minutes after sunset. Act quickly because it will sink soon after—the window is only about 20 minutes.

Thursday, December 7: A Waning Crescent Moon Aligns With Spica And Venus

Look to the southeast before sunrise this morning, and you’ll see the beautiful tableau of a 29% lit waning crescent moon and Venus. Look between them, and you will see the bright star Spica in Virgo. The moon and Venus will form a triangle with bright star Arcturus on Boötes to the east.


Look for “Earthshine” on the crescent moon’s dark side—sunlight reflected from Earth’s ice-caps and clouds onto the moon’s surface.

Friday, December 8: A Waning Crescent Moon And Spica

Repeat your observation from yesterday morning, and today, you’ll see a 20% lit waning crescent moon, just 2 degrees from Spica, with Venus shining brightly close by. You’ll also see “Earthshine” on the crescent moon.

Saturday, December 9: A Waning Crescent Moon And Venus

Another early rise will get you arguably the celestial sight of the week—a slender 13%-lit waning crescent moon just 3 degrees from Venus.

Sunday, December 10: A Waning Crescent Moon Aligns With Venus And Spica

A 7% waning crescent moon will again be aligned with Venues and Spica this morning. Now on the cusp of its new moon phase—during which it will be lost in the sun’s glare—it will be the closest of the three objects to the horizon.

Stargazing Tip Of The Week: Creating A Star Trail

Taking an image of circles in the night sky that shows the rotation of the Earth is surprisingly easy, but if you want the classic circles pattern, you must point your camera north. Many smartphones now have dedicated star trail modes—all you need to do is add a tripod to keep them still for a few hours. However, using a mirrorless or DSLR camera on a tripod in manual mode is the best way. Using a wide-angle lens with an aperture of f/2.8 (or a similar setting), a shutter speed of 30 seconds and approximately ISO 800-1600, take test images until you’re happy you have a pleasing picture (preferably with something interesting in the foreground).

Then, take hundreds of identical shots using an intervalometer or a shutter release cable. About 150 works well, but 400 looks incredible. After you’ve finished, drag all your images into the free StarStaX software, creating a beautiful star trail JPEG to download.


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