The waning crescent moon and the brilliant planet Jupiter still adorn the eastern predawn and dawn sky on September 20, 2014. If you’re up before dawn, you should be able to spot the star Regulus below the moon and Jupiter, as well. Jupiter is about 30 times brighter than Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion. As darkness gives way to morning twilight, the moon and Jupiter continue to light up the dawn, even as Regulus fades away.
By the way, the moon and Jupiter both shine in front of the constellation Cancer the Crab on Saturday, September 20. But watch for the moon to move into the constellation Leo the Lion on the morning of September 21, to pair up with Regulus, Leo’s brightest star. Slow-moving Jupiter won’t meet up with Regulus until August 2015.
Regulus is the only 1st-magnitude star to reside almost squarely on the ecliptic – the pathway of the planets through the constellations of the Zodiac. In fact, an imaginary line from Jupiter through Regulus might help you to locate the planet Venus near the horizon about 40 to 30 minutes before sunrise.
The only problem is that Regulus may fade from view before Venus rises over the horizon. Venus ranks as the third-brightest heavenly body, after the sun and moon, so this world still might be visible to the unaided eye in the harsh glow of dawn. Don’t forget to bring binoculars, though, if you have them, for they help out immensely in finding celestial objects in the haze of dawn.
Bottom line: You’ll have no problem catching the moon, Jupiter and Regulus in the early morning hours on Saturday, September 20, 2014. Venus will be tougher – closer to the horizon before sunup – but it’s very bright. Give it a try.