Look up tonight! Ghostly ‘Da Vinci glow’ will illuminate the crescent moon this evening – here’s how to see the eerie phenomenon
- A ghostly shine will be visible in the coming days before and after the New Moon
- The glow is named after Leonardo Da Vinci who solved its mystery centuries ago
- The phenomenon occurs when sunlight is reflected from Earth onto the Moon
From painting the Mona Lisa to his pioneering research, it’s no secret that Leonardo Da Vinci was a world-renowned genius.
And now, lucky stargazers have the chance to view ‘his glow’, with an Earthshine set to illuminate our skies in the coming week.
An eerie yet subtle shine is expected to be visible for seven days from today in the lead up to and aftermath of the New Moon on May 19.
The so-called ‘Da Vinci’ glow is aptly named after the acclaimed Italian researcher who solved its mystery more than 500 years ago.
Its ghostly shine takes place when sunlight is reflected from Earth onto the Moon’s surface, then once more into our eyes.
A ghostly ‘Da Vinci’ shine will be visible in the coming days before and after the New Moon
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Vega, known as the Harp Star, is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra
Professor Don Pollacco, University of Warwick Department of Physics, explained: ‘When the Moon is a thin crescent you can often see the dark part of moon shining faintly.
‘At first glance this may seem quite mysterious as the crescent is the part of the Moon that is illuminated by the sun – so where does the light from the unilluminated part of the Moon come from?
‘In fact what we are seeing is light from the Earth being reflected back from the Moon! Hence the name Earthshine.’
Although Earthshine usually appears for several days before and after each New Moon, it is most visible during the springtime at mid-northern latitudes.
At this time, the Moon is positioned directly above the Sun when it sets each evening.
Professor Pollacco continued: ‘As the Moon is more fully illuminated its brightness increases hugely and the faint Earthshine gets difficult to see.’
NASA claims that Da Vinci grasped the basics of Earthshine more than 500 years ago, with his notebooks brimming with sketches that were far ahead of his time.
It said: ‘When you think of Leonardo Da Vinci, you probably think of the Mona Lisa or 16th-century submarines or, maybe, a certain suspenseful novel. That’s old school. From now on, think of the Moon.
The eerie glow is named after Leonardo Da Vinci who solved its mystery centuries ago
‘Little-known to most, one of Leonardo’s finest works is not a painting or an invention, but rather something from astronomy: He solved the ancient riddle of Earthshine.’
While Da Vinci was on the right track, it is understood that he did get some things wrong.
For instance, he reportedly believed that Earth’s oceans were the primary source of Earthshine when clouds and sea ice reflect the most light.
Yet NASA suggests these are just ‘quibbles’, with the 15th century researcher having grasped its main premise.
Providing the weather is clear, viewers can catch sight of Earthshine in the eastern sky from May 15 to May 17.
According to LiveScience, this will occur before sunrise, with the Moon experiencing its lowest illumination of seven per cent on Wednesday.
Earthshine can then be viewable in the western sky from May 21 to May 23, with a 5 per cent- illuminated Moon on Sunday.
The phases of the moon
Like Earth, the Moon has a day side and a night side, which change as the Moon rotates.
The Sun always illuminates half of the Moon while the other half remains dark, but how much we are able to see of that illuminated half changes as the Moon travels through its orbit.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the phases of the moon are:
1. New Moon
This is the invisible phase of the Moon, with the illuminated side of the Moon facing the Sun and the night side facing Earth.
2. Waxing crescent
This silver sliver of a Moon occurs when the illuminated half of the Moon faces mostly away from Earth, with only a tiny portion visible to us from our planet.
3. First Quarter
The Moon is now a quarter of the way through its monthly journey and you see half of its illuminated side.
4. Waxing Gibbous
Now most of the Moon’s dayside has come into view, and the Moon appears brighter in the sky.
5. Full Moon
This is as close as we come to seeing the Sun’s illumination of the entire day side of the Moon.
6. Waning Gibbous
As the Moon begins its journey back toward the Sun, the opposite side of the Moon now reflects the Moon’s light.
7. Last Quarter
The Moon looks like it’s half illuminated from the perspective of Earth, but really you’re seeing half of the half of the Moon that’s illuminated by the Sun ― or a quarter.
8. Waning Crescent
The Moon is nearly back to the point in its orbit where its dayside directly faces the Sun, and all that we see from our perspective is a thin curve.
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