Astro Bob: See Venus and a record-setting crescent moon
On Thursday morning, Aug. 25, the crescent moon hovers above Venus. The following morning it may be the thinnest crescent you'll ever see.
DULUTH — Before the moon is new and hides in the light of the day, we have two fine opportunities to see thin crescents at dawn. The first happens on Thursday morning, August 25 when a fingernail moon hovers about 6° (three fingers stacked atop each other held at arm's length) above Venus an hour before sunrise .
Both bodies appear in the zodiac constellation Cancer the crab low in the eastern sky. They should be super easy to see provided you have an unobstructed eastern view. I live in a forest, so I often wander around the neighborhood looking for gaps in the trees. If I can't find one I'll make the short drive to Lake Superior, which offers a beautiful horizon to the east and south.
Lakes are good places for another reason. On calmer nights bright stars, planets and the moon lay down paths of glittering light across the water. These are both beautiful to behold and photograph.
On Friday morning, Aug. 26, we'll have yet another chance to spot Venus and the waning crescent. But this time, it will be breathtakingly thin, with the sun illuminating just 0.8 percent of the moon. A mere crust of its usual self, it may be the skinniest sliver of moonlight you'll ever see. Bring binoculars in case there's haze or you run into a problem tracking it down. Focus sharply on Venus, then slide to the left and below the planet and slowly sweep along the eastern horizon.
From the Midwest, observers will see the moon 22 hours before new phase. (23 hours for the East Coast; 21 hours for the Mountain states and 20 hours for the West Coast).
So little of the sunlit moon will show that if you scrunched the entire moon into a point it would shine a smidge fainter than Venus. Such delicacies await anyone with clear skies and an eastern exposure at dawn. The following day (Saturday) the moon will be new and then enter the evening sky early next week.