It’ll be worth waking up before sunrise on April 25 to see the waning crescent moon and the planet Venus in the early morning sky. Look eastward – in the direction of sunrise – and you can’t miss this brilliant twosome at dawn. After all, the moon and Venus rank as the second-brightest and third-brightest heavenly bodies, after the sun.
During the next few mornings, the waning crescent moon will reside to the north of the ecliptic – Earth’s orbital plane projected onto the dome of sky. The moon’s orbit around Earth is inclined at 5o to the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Day by day, the moon will edge closer to the ecliptic, finally to cross the ecliptic – Earth’s orbital plane – at the moon’s descending node on April 28, 2014, at 11:36 Universal Time.
The moon crosses the ecliptic, going from north to south at its descending node, a little more than three-fourths a day before the new moon. The new moon falls on April 29, at 6:14 Universal Time. A solar eclipse can only happen when the new moon is appreciably close to one of its nodes.
Although it’ll be far from a perfect alignment, the new moon will happen close enough to its descending node to stage an annular eclipse of the sun on April 29. During an annular eclipse, the moon lies too far away from Earth to totally cover over the sun’s disk, so a ring – or annulus – of sunshine surrounds the new moon silhouette.
The upcoming new moon will happen with the moon somewhat south of the ecliptic, so the moon’s shadow will point just south of the Earth’s South Pole. You’d have to be in right spot in Antarctica to see the upcoming non-central annular solar eclipse, or the right place in the Southern Hemisphere to witness the upcoming partial solar eclipse on April 29.
Bottom line: Before sunrise on April 25, 2014, everyone around the world can enjoy viewing the waning crescent moon near Venus, the sky’s brightest planet. They will be in the east before dawn.