Stargazing: Crescent moon and the Pleiades


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Saturday's new moon marked the start of the current lunar cycle. The moon has been moving east away from the sun, and a wafer-thin crescent moon can be seen above the western horizon in twilight tonight. By Thursday evening, the 6-day-old waxing crescent will have climbed about 45 degrees above the western horizon and sit 5 degrees to the lower left of the Pleiades star cluster.

The Pleiades, also known as M45, is a cluster of young stars that lie about 400 light-years from Earth. They are one of the brightest and easily recognized star clusters for naked-eye observing. Although they are called the Seven Sisters, only six stars can be seen without optical aid. The hot, blue-white stars that make up the Pleiades are surrounded by wisps of gas that shine by reflected light from the stars. Because these stars formed from a great nebula only 100 million years ago, the gas and dust from that nebula still clings to them.


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