The steerman's face by his lamp
    gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip —
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The hornèd Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

      — Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

Looking southwest in bright twilight

Venus is creeping up into after-sunset view week by week. The waxing Moon leaps up day by day. (These scenes are always drawn for the middle of North America. European observers: move each Moon symbol a quarter of the way toward the one for the previous date. The blue 10° scale is about the size of your fist held at arm's length. For clarity, the Moon is shown three times actual size.)

Sky & Telescope diagram.

When it comes to celestial pairings, there are few duos that resonate through time and culture like Venus and the crescent Moon. For example, among superstitious sailors, it was deemed a bad omen whenever a bright star hung so close to Luna. And according to the late Sky & Telescope editor Joseph Ashbrook, it was most likely a close conjunction of Venus and a sliver Moon that provided the inspiration for these lines from Coleridge's 1798 poem.

Is tonight's grouping a sign? You can decide for yourself. But indeed, at dusk the pair meet again. Look toward the southwest. Above the horizon you should be able to make out the thin arc of the Moon to the left of our sister planet. Certainly the two have had much closer rendezvous, but it is always a sight to behold when the brightest objects in the evening sky get together.


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