Moon-Venus alignment forms 'smiley face'

Posted at 05/17/2010 11:05 AM | Updated as of 05/17/2010 11:37 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Stargazers were treated to a rare celestial show on Sunday evening as the planet Venus aligned with a crescent moon, forming what online users described as a "smiley face."

The rare phenomenon, called an occultation, happened because the crescent Moon was poised directly between Venus and the Earth, according to a Press Trust of India news agency report.

The last time this took place in Asia was in June 2007, and the next one will reportedly be on June 30, 2011.

 

Smiley? The crescent moon aligned with planet Venus, forming what people called a "smiley face." Credit: Val Cuenca

 

The sky show was observed in parts of Southeast Asia a few hours after local sunset.

Larry Sessions of EarthSky.org, a forum and blogging community for scientists and science enthusiasts, said it is "not unusual for the moon to appear to pass close to Venus" since this happens about once a month.

However, the occurrence seen on May 16 (Sunday) is said to be rare because these events "are only visible in the evening sky half the time and then only for a short period after sunset."

"The apparent closeness varies from month to month as well," Sessions stated. He said North Americans will not experience an occultation of Venus until August 13, 2012.