Tomorrow before sunrise – June 20, 2017 – the early bird gets to view the beautiful pairing of the moon and Venus around dawn. Simply look eastward, beginning an hour or two before sunrise. Given clear skies, you can’t miss the morning couple. The moon and Venus rank as the second-brightest and third-brightest celestial bodies, respectively, after the sun.
The moon is now displaying a waning crescent phase, that is, the illuminated part of the moon’s disk is less than half-lit by sunshine. The moon will turn new on June 24, to swing in between the Earth and sun. At new moon, the moon – as always – will transition out of the morning sky and into the evening sky.
Want to know the moon’s present phase? Click here.
You might expect Venus to exhibit a similar waning crescent phase in the telescope, too. After all, Venus is almost in the same spot on the sky’s dome as the moon is on June 20. But no, Venus is now showing a waxing gibbous phase. It was half-illuminated in early June 2017 and is now almost 60% illuminated by sunshine.
Want to know Venus’ present phase? Click here, remembering to check Venus as your object of interest.
Unlike the moon, which orbits the Earth, Venus orbits the sun. Venus, in its smaller and faster orbit around the sun, is rushing ahead of Earth along the great race course of the planets. As the distance between Venus and Earth increases, Venus’ disk size will shrink, but its phase will increase (wax). Finally, when Venus passes behind the sun (at full phase) on January 9, 2018, it’ll transition out of the morning sky and into the evening sky.
Want to know Venus’ present distance from the Earth and sun? Click here.
Bottom line: On the morning of June 20, 2017, enjoy the short-lived rendezvous of the moon and Venus.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.