Moon-gazers best rally their troops, because tonight, if you look up, you’ll be able to see ‘planetshine’.
Also known as ‘Earthshine’ and ‘the old Moon in the new Moon’s arms’, the celestial phenomenon takes place several times throughout the year – however, the period between April and June is prime-time to see the glow of ‘the dark side of the moon’.
Tonight, April 26, the Moon is set to be 12% illuminated, meaning the sliver of light – producing the effect of a slightly luminescent crescent moon – will be slightly harder to see. However, it is still a worthy sight to check out – but what exactly is planetshine?
— CGathier (@c_gathier) April 25, 2020
Throughout the course of 29 days – a lunar month – we watch as the Moon transforms from crescent, to full, to New, which is the moment it becomes near-lost in the Sun’s light and is barely visible to us.
What’s so different about this time of year then, if the Moon does this all the time, I hear you ask? Well, between April and June in the northern hemisphere, Earth’s albedo (sunlight reflected off the planet from the Sun) is particularly intense.
Really cool to see earthshine during the Moon’s crescent phase 🌙 pic.twitter.com/2uFJRfOa7G
— raven yu (@cosmicwandere05) April 26, 2020
Simply, Earthshine occurs when sunlight reflects off of our planet onto the unlit portion of the Moon, creating a lit-up waxing crescent on the left-hand side. Keen lunar-heads have been looking up over the weekend – don’t worry, if you were unaware of this phenomenon taking place, there’s still a chance to see it tonight.
Further to that, if you’re battling cloudy skies later, planetshine also will be visible 12 nights after the Super Flower Moon on May 7. It’s a good time to be a sky-gazer.