Here are two bright morning objects, easily seen on the sky’s dome in the predawn and dawn hours: the planet Jupiter and the moon. As seen from around the world tomorrow morning, on Friday, August 2, the moon will be shining between the dazzling planet Jupiter and Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Then keep watching for several more mornings! On the next morning – Saturday, August 3 – note that the moon has moved away from Aldebaran and closer to Jupiter. On Sunday morning, August 4, the scene will have shifted slightly again.
How could it be otherwise? The moon is constantly moving in orbit around Earth, and this ceaseless motion translates to an eastward motion across our sky from one day to the next. Since the moon is now a waning crescent, you’ll see the illuminated portion of the moon decrease in the coming mornings. New moon – when the moon will pass between the Earth and sun – will come on August 6.
That waning moon is excellent news for stargazers. The Perseid meteor shower is now beginning, and the Delta Aquarid meteor shower is rambling along steadily. Both showers will go until about mid-August. The waning moon now means the midnight-to-dawn skies will be free of the moon soon. Yay! Check the links below for more information about upcoming 2013 meteor showers.
But, between now and the time the moon goes between us and the sun (more or less) on August 6, the moon will provide some beautiful early morning sky scenes. If you keep watching the moon for the next several days, you’ll notice it descending toward the sunrise point on the horizon, as it passes the planet Mars on August 4 and the planet Mercury on August 5. You won’t have any trouble seeing Jupiter in the twilight glare, but you’ll probably need binoculars to catch Mars and Mercury.
Jupiter wins acclaim for being the largest and most massive planet in our solar system, and it’s very bright in our sky, always. However, this world isn’t the brightest planet in our sky. That honor belongs to Venus. Presently, Venus appears in the western evening sky after sunset, so Jupiter now reigns supreme over the morning sky.
Jupiter is rising before dawn right now. But Earth will continue on in its orbit around the sun, and we move faster than Jupiter in our smaller orbit. Earth will catch up to Jupiter and pass it on the inside track in early January 2014. Around that time, Jupiter will appear opposite the sun in our sky – visible all night.
Bottom line: Notice where the moon shines relative to Jupiter tomorrow morning (Friday, August 2, 2013). Then notice how the moon’s position has changed one day later, on Saturday, August 3. Then keep watching! The moon will be shifting downward in the predawn sky, changing its position each day with respect to stars and planets in the predawn sky. New moon will come on August 6. After that, the predawn sky will be moon-free and 2013 summer meteor-watching will be in full swing!