OVER the coming weekend there will be what many Westmorland Gazette readers will call a New Moon shining low in the south-western sky after sunset, writes STUART ATKINSON. In fact, in astronomical terms a proper New Moon is invisible, because that's the name we give the phase of the Moon when there is no sunlight illuminating any part if the disc, so what we'll be seeing is a lovely 'young crescent Moon.'

A silvery crescent Moon shining brightly above the trees and fells is a beautiful sight in its own right, but for the first few days of each lunar month it's often possible to see something else - the dark part of the Moon's face glowing with a very subtle lavender-blue hue. This is called Earthshine, because what we're seeing is light from the Sun reflecting of the Earth and illuminating the rest of the Moon not actually bathed in direct sunlight.

Earthshine is clearly visible to the naked eye, but looks much more beautiful through a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. If you have either of those, point them to the Moon after sunset on any night between Friday and Sunday and the Earthshine-lit Moon will look stunning.

Early risers needn't feel left out. Look to the south east after 5am on any clear morning and you'll see two bright planets shining quite close together. Jupiter, the brighter of the two, is to the upper right of fainter, redder Mars. Saturn will join them in the sky around 7am, but very low down in the brightening eastern sky so it will be a challenge to spot it.