2019, May 15-16: Moon Passes Spica

Step outside as the sky darkens on Wed (May 15) and Thurs (May 26).  The moon appears to pass the bluish star Spica on the two evenings.  Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

On May 15, the moon, 11.1 days past its New phase and 90% illuminated, appears 8° above Spica.

On the next evening, the moon, one day older and 92% illuminated, is over 11° to the left of Spica.

Across these two evenings you can see the moon’s eastward movement compared to the starry background.

We notice several changes in the moon:

  • Phase:  The illuminated portion of the moon changes slightly each night, dramatically across a week.
  • Daily Rising and Setting:  On a warm spring evening, notice the moon’s position, relative to nearby trees and houses, for an hour.  You see it get farther west during that time.  Like the sun, it rises in the eastern sky, sometimes southeast and sometimes northeast, and sets later somewhere in the west that mirrors its rising spot.
  • Daily eastward orbital motion:  Each day, the moon moves slightly to the east.  In about 27 days appears near Spica again, but its phase is not quite the same as on these two nights.

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