If you’re an early bird, up and about before dawn’s first light, simply look for the waning crescent moon to light up the southeast sky on Friday, November 29. The star close to the moon is Spica, the brightest in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. But you’ll have to wait until early dawn to catch the planets Mercury and Saturn near the horizon and in the glow of morning twilight.
The moon will be seen in the vicinity of Spica from all around the world before dawn. However, if you reside in Alaska, you might not actually see Spica next to the moon in the predawn hours tomorrow (Friday, November 29). That’s because the moon will occult – cover over – Spica for about an hour in that part of the world.
For example, as seen from Anchorage Alaska, Spica will disappear behind the moon around 7:03 a.m. local time and will reappear just before 8:09 a.m. local time. Click here to find out the occultation times for other Alaskan localities, remembering that the times are given in Universal Time. Subtract 9 hours to convert Universal Time to your clock time in Alaska.
Mercury and Saturn at early dawn
Given a level and unobstructed horizon, you might be able to spot Mercury and Saturn low in the southeast sky around 75 to 60 minutes before sunrise. You can use the moon to help guide you to these two morning planets, because the “bow” of the moon points in their direction. Binoculars may be helpful to see these two worlds in the glow of dawn!
At present, Mercury is sinking toward the glare of sunrise day by day while Saturn is climbing away from it. You should have little trouble catching Saturn in the predawn sky in December 2013!
Consider how late the sun rises right now at mid-and-far northern latitudes. Make the most of the late sunrise to let the moon be your guide to the star Spica and the planets Mercury and Saturn before sunup on Friday, November 29.