Once again – on Wednesday morning, January 29, 2014 – the moon will pair up with the dazzling planet Venus before sunrise. Get up 90 to 60 minutes before sunrise to see them in the sunrise direction.
The featured sky chart at top shows the view of the waning crescent moon and Venus for about one hour before sunrise at mid-northern latitudes in North America. Viewers in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia will see the moon and Venus closer together than we will in the Americas. The two may even fit within a single binocular view from many of these localities. Grab your binoculars before you go outside, and enjoy!
Although the moon and Venus shine close together on the dome of sky, they are not close together in space. On the morning of January 29, the moon will be about 358,000 kilometers (222,400 miles) away from Earth, yet Venus will lie over 130 times that distance.
Still, that’s relatively close for Venus. In fact, Venus relative closeness to Earth now, at a distance of a little over 0.3 of an astronomical units, makes right now a great time to observe Venus through the telescope.
If you could view Venus through a telescope now, you would find that it presently exhibits a narrow phase but also a large disk. That’s why it’s easy to observe the crescent Venus through a backyard telescope in late January and February 2014. Sharp-eyed folks might even be able to discern the crescent Venus with binoculars.
Over the coming weeks and months, the phase of Venus will grow, while the size of the planet’s disk, as seen through earthly telescopes, shrinks. Venus starts the month of February 2014 around 13% illuminated in sunshine, and finishes the month with its disk being about 36% illuminated in sunshine. By the end of February, Venus’ disk shrinks to about two-thirds of its original size at the start of the month.
Venus will brighten in our morning sky over the coming weeks as its phase waxes (increases) daily. Venus always shines at its brightest best in the morning (or evening) sky when its disk is about one-quarter (25%) illuminated in sunshine. Venus will reach this milestone around mid-February 2014.
Bottom line: Use the moon to find Venus before sunrise on January 29, 2014. Then watch Venus, the planet named for the goddess of love and beauty, as she ascends to her pinnacle of brilliance in the morning sky over the next couple of weeks!