Today's first quarter moon is an afternoon and evening moon. It is the half phase that comes after waxing evening crescents. Its round edge faces the sun as it follows our star in the sky: Moonrise in the east-southeast today is at 1:16 p.m. Tomorrow, waxing gibbous (larger than half) phases begin, leading to full moon next Sunday. At this time of "moonth" we can count on our natural satellite to light our evening outdoor activities.

Waxing phases increase to full moon and waning phases decrease to new (invisible) moon. We see less of Luna after full moon because moonrise is progressively later at night. Last quarter half moon signals the beginning of morning crescents: The moon will be visible after midnight until it disappears from view and the cycle begins again.

At dusk tonight, close to 9 p.m., see Luna in the southwest, dynamically positioned between Saturn and Mars. Mars is the first of the three to set, at 11:22 p.m. Tomorrow, a gibbous moon will be found to the left of Saturn, and on Tuesday it will shine down on Scorpius' heart star, red Antares. Luna reaches the Scorpion's neighboring constellation, Sagittarius, on Thursday.

Sagittarius the Archer can be seen best away from artificial light and with a relatively unobstructed view to the south. Variously described as a man or a centaur (half man, half horse) poised to shoot an arrow, this can be imagined from careful study of the given star grouping. Sometimes, an easier approach is to look within a constellation for an unofficial star grouping, known as an "asterism," that is immediately recognizable.


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The asterism associated with Sagittarius is The Teapot. Look for a quadrilateral center with a small triangular spout on the right, a small rectangular handle on the left and a triangle on top for the lid. Unless you must wait until Thursday, try to find it to the left of the Scorpion tonight.

To contact Judy Isacoff, M.A. go to: www.naturesturn.org