Get up an hour or two before sunrise on June 23, 2014 to see the brightest and second-brightest objects of nighttime – the moon and the planet Venus – near each other. These worlds, both of which shine by reflecting the light of the sun, appear low in the eastern sky at dawn. If you’re up and about, don’t miss them! And keep watching. They’ll be even closer on June 24.
Scan the moon with binoculars or the unaided eye, and you’ll likely notice a soft glow illuminating the nighttime side of the moon. This is earthshine, twice-reflected sunlight. That is, it’s sunlight reflected from Earth to the moon, and again from the moon to your eye.
The waning crescent moon in the sky for the next several mornings is called an old moon because the lunar cycle is said to begin anew at new moon, which will fall on June 27. At new moon, the moon will pass more or less between the Earth and sun for this monthly lunar orbit. It will move out of the morning sky and into the evening sky.
Since the moon and Venus are fairly close together on the sky’s dome in the morning sky in June 2014, you might think Venus should appear as a crescent in the telescope as well. But this is not the case. Venus now exhibits a waxing gibbous phase, and its disk is about 84% illuminated in sunshine. In order to appear as a crescent, Venus must be more or less between the Earth and sun. That’s not the case now.
At present, Venus is fleeing ahead of Earth in its smaller orbit, and it’s waxing toward full, as seen from our vantage point. Venus will swing behind the sun (at full phase) on October 25, 2014, to transition from the morning to evening sky.
Bottom line: Watch the eastern predawn sky from about June 23 to June 25, 2014. On these mornings, the waning crescent moon and the waxing gibbous Venus light up the early morning sky.