Crescent Moon Visits A ‘wintering’ Venus / Mercury-moon Conjunction For Y’all

The slender crescent moon brushes Venus Tuesday morning at dawn low in the northeastern sky. The Pleiades star cluster, better known as the Seven Sisters, floats just above the pair. This map shows the sky facing northeast around 4 a.m. June 24. Stellarium

Wonder where the moon’s been hiding lately? Unless you’re up around 3 a.m. it’s been scarce this past week. All that time our favorite cratered world has been slimming down in the morning sky.

Now it’s a waning crescent fingernail, what many consider the moon’s most eye-catching phase.

Tuesday morning June 24 at dawn the thin crescent will join Venus in the constellation Taurus just below the pretty Pleiades star cluster. About 1 1/2 degrees or three moon diameters will separate Venus and the moon. To see this beautiful conjunction, look low in the northeastern sky at the start of dawn.

For the best view of the Seven Sisters, I recommend binoculars. Whenever I’ve had a reason to be up before sunrise in early summer I make a point of looking at the cluster. Taurus, neighboring Auriga and the Pleiades all belong to the winter sky, but we get a preview of that inevitable season as early as the first mornings of summer. There’s something delicious about seeing the first stars of winter as the robins sing in the dewy woods.

An extremely thin moon will pass very close to Mercury on Thursday morning June 26 as seen from the southern U.S. This view shows the sky facing northeast right around sunrise for New Orleans, LA. The moon will only be about 5 degrees high at the time. Use binoculars to find it. Seeing Mercury will require a small telescope. Stellarium

Live in the far southern U.S.? You’ve got one more lunar visitation. This one will be challenging. On Thursday morning, the moon, just 21 hours before new, will glide a fraction of a degree south of the planet Mercury in a bright sky only minutes before sunrise. The moon will hover very low (5 degrees) in the northeast in a bright sky. Whatever you do, bring binoculars. You might need them to find the moon at all.

Like the moon, Mercury’s an extremely thin crescent and very faint, shining at just magnitude 3.5. Skywatchers might spot it in binoculars, but I’m not betting on it. With very clear skies, there’s a chance of seeing the planet directly above the northern cusp of the moon with a small telescope. Should you succeed, you’ll be rewarded with the rare sight of two delicate crescents one atop the other. Find a location with a wide open view to the northeast and start looking about 15 minutes before sunrise.

The moon will cover up or occult the planet for observers in northern South America, but again, this will happen in a bright sky and prove tricky to see.

Just a reminder. Although no auroras showed last night at mid-latitudes, there’s still a chance for a minor storm tonight. I’ll send out a notice if that happens.


11 Responses

      1. astrobob

        Great to hear it. I so wish our fog would depart so I could see the morning sky again.

  1. Phil A.

    Thanks Bob!. I’ll be checking that out with my Fathers Vintage Tasco “Imperial” 7X 35mm Bino’s., Lightweight, Fully Coated Optics that are in near pristine condition from my “Skydeck” in Cedarville, Ma. Keep the Good Stuff coming…:o) My Fave. time of year now…

  2. Troy

    With a goto telescope it seems like it would be possible to see it in northern latitudes as well, as long as you are careful not to accidentally point your telescope at the risen sun. My strategy would be to align the scope before sunrise and then wait until the duo rise and then target the moon. Unfortunately, Mercury isn’t very bright right now so it still might get caught in the twilight.

    1. astrobob

      Sounds like a possibility Troy but the moon will be so thin and low contrast only 10 degrees from the sun. Still …

      1. Troy

        It turns out you were correct. Even at 5:15 (a full 50 minutes before sun rise) the sky was already quite bright with Venus and one star in the western part of the sky visible. I’d be impressed if anyone in the U.S. was able to see the moon alone (and you might need tweezers to remove the sliver!)

        1. astrobob

          Sure wish it had been clear here. I can picture them though as I’ve been out a few June mornings over the years. There’s a little spot they come up between the trees.

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