Sunday, June 4, 2023

Starwatch: moon makes close pass of Virgo’s star performer

Starwatch chart showing Spica and the moon on the night of Wednesday 3 May 2023

We start the month with the almost full moon making a close pass of Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo, the virgin. The conjunction takes place across the evening of Wednesday 3 May, continuing past midnight into the pre-dawn hours of Thursday.

The chart shows the view looking south from London at 23.00BST. The moon will be virtually full with 96% of its visible surface illuminated – it is considered full when 98% or more of its visible surface is lit. On Wednesday night the moon will pass several degrees away from Spica, which is the 16th brightest star in the night sky and fully 11 times larger than our sun.

Spica gives out a brilliant white light that will complement the moon’s silvery glow. The pairing is easily visible from the southern hemisphere too, appearing high in the northern sky about midnight.

On the night of Friday 5 May the moon will coast through the outer portions of Earth’s shadow, causing a subtle dimming known as a penumbral lunar eclipse. It will be visible across much of the world with the exception of the UK, Greenland and the Americas.

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