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This weekend, Venus and the crescent Moon are gathering in the western sky for a spectacular conjunction, and they're not alone. The International Space Station and, very likely, space shuttle Atlantis will join them for a rare four-way meeting of spaceships and planets over many locations.
The show begins at sunset when Venus and the Moon emerge from the twilight in close proximity to one another. The Moon will be exquisitely slender, a 5% crescent on Saturday, May 15th (sky map), and a slightly fatter 10% crescent on Sunday, May 16th (sky map). Between the horns of the crescent, a ghostly image of the full Moon can be seen. That's "Earthshine"—the light of our own planet reflected back toward us by the Moon's dark terrain. In conjunction with Venus, a crescent Moon with Earthshine is regarded as one of the most beautiful sights in the heavens.
Into this tableau of surpassing beauty comes a spaceship--and maybe two!
The International Space Station is due to fly over many US towns and cities this weekend. The ISS appears just after sunset, about the same time as the Venus-Moon encounter, and it glides slowly across the sky shining as brightly as Venus herself.