Early Thursday morning we will have an opportunity to catch sight of the two brightest objects in the night sky, engaged in a final pre-sunrise dance.
Set your alarm clock to ring one hour before sunrise, and then quickly head outside. Make sure you go to a site where your east-northeast sky is free of any obstructions such as buildings or trees, since what you’ll be attempting to see will be poised low above the horizon. You’ll be looking for the brilliant Venus planetand hovering about six and a half degrees above and slightly to its left will be a hairline crescent moon, resembling a thin smile against the twilight sky and just three percent illuminated and about two days before reaching its new phase.
Since becoming a morning fixture, this will mark the fifth time that the moon has gotten together with Venus to form an eye-catching configuration. Unfortunately, this will be the last of such lunar get-togethers for a while. Before it vanishes out of sight for the next few months, Venus will have this one final morning fling with a hairline crescent moon early on Thursday morning.
Brightness is the key
Venus will sit nine degrees above the east-northeastern horizon 30 minutes before sunrise. Your clenched fist held at arm’s length measures roughly 10 degrees, so Venus will appear just less than “one-fist up” above the horizon.
Astronomers use magnitude to define the brightness of celestial objects. The lower the figure of brightness, the brighter the object is; a negative magnitude denotes a brilliant object. Venus is currently shining at a scintillating magnitude of -3.9, so its great brightness still renders it visible until just before sunrise. But considering the relatively low altitudes of the moon and especially Venus, and the brightness of the morning twilight sky, these factors will pose a certain degree of difficulty if you plan to get a view of them.
Unquestionably, you will enhance your viewing chances by using binoculars and having access to a clear and unobstructed horizon. You should also hope that your local skies are clear with little or no ground haze.
Continuing to rise closer to sunup, Venus ultimately becomes lost from view in the bright twilight sky during September. It will cross over into the evening sky on Oct. 22, but its first evening appearance won’t come until about a month later in late November.
Thus, for all intents and purposes Venus will soon take the rest of the summer, and much of the fall off.
Venus has been a bright morning “star” since it vaulted into view in mid-January. It loomed high and dramatically bright in the predawn eastern sky through early spring. But since the end of April, it has been only marginally visible, appearing lower and rising at or shortly after the break of dawn, and now it’s finally on its way out. It will begin to reemerge very low in the southwest evening sky shortly after sunset during the final week of November. From then on it will get progressively higher, evolving into a spectacularly high and bright evening apparition in late winter and early spring of 2023.
And if you’re wondering when we’ll get another opportunity to see Venus meet up with the moon, that will come on Saturday (Dec. 25): Christmas Eve.
If you’re hoping to capture a good photo of the event, check out our guide on how to photograph the moonalong with the best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. You can also check out our guides for the best telescopes and best binoculars to spot both the moon and Mars in the sky.
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium (opens in new tab). He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine (opens in new tab)tea Farmers’ Almanac (opens in new tab) and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and on Facebook (opens in new tab).