Moon and Pleiades, June 30, 2008. Sometimes it's really worthwhile getting up in the middle of the night to see a special astronomical event. A thin crescent Moon passing in front of the Pleiades star cluster is always memorable. I stood on the shore of Georgian Bay, near my home to watch as the Moon and Pleiades rose gracefully above the horizon.
This photograph was taken at 3:16 a.m. EDT just as the star Merope finished a grazing pass along the lower right of the Moon. The star Maia has just emerged from behind the Moon's upper edge. Above Maia is Taygeta, and to the right is Electra. To the lower left is Atlas. The Moon was less than four degrees above the horizon at this time, so it has a coppery colour from all of the atmosphere its light has travelled through. Earthshine gives a dusky glow to the shadow side of the Moon.
Two years earlier I took a similar photograph of the Moon and Pleiades from the same location, but with the pair much higher in the sky.
We sometimes think of stars as being very old, even timeless, but the Pleiades stars are youngsters, having formed just one hundred million years ago. To put that into perspective, the beach fossils I was standing on when I took the photograph are four times older, and the Moon itself is forty times older.
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