Earthshine is visible to the naked eye

I wonder what 2014 will bring for skywatchers? A bright naked eye comet? A supernova? A magnificent display of the northern lights visible from our part of the world? We can only cross our fingers - and wait...

From January 3, look out for a very slender crescent Moon low in the west after sunset. By January 5 we will be able to see dark part of the disc illuminated faintly, too. Because what we're seeing is sunlight bouncing off the Earth's oceans and clouds, lighting up the dark part, astronomers call this phenomenon Earthshine, but I prefer the old folk name: the Old Moon in The New Moon's Arms.

Earthshine is visible to the naked eye, but through a small telescope or even binoculars it is a beautiful sight. The sunlit crescent appears bright silver-blue, and the earthshine glows a subtle lavender hue. Happy New Year!

Stuart Atkinson, Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal


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