The past two mornings, the old moon – a waning crescent moon – has been visible in the east before dawn, near the planet Mercury. Here are two photos, one from May 13 (above) and the next from May 14 (below). Both photos were taken as the moon and Mercury rose over Cecil Kop Nature Reserve in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
Notice that on May 13, the moon was above Mercury. But on May 14, Mercury was above the moon. The moon’s motion in orbit around Earth caused this difference and caused the moon to sink into the sunrise glare – so that it would not be visible before dawn – on May 15.
Also, notice in the animation below what the still images above can’t show … that the moon and Mercury both were rising as these photos were taken. They were rising in the east for the same reason the sun does, because Earth is spinning under the sky.
Even on May 14, the moon remained faintly visible, ascending in the east, as dawn brightened.
Bottom line: Images of the moon and innermost planet Mercury – now putting on a grand show from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere (but not the Northern Hemisphere) in the east before dawn.
Dr. Peter Lowenstein has contributed many beautiful and fascinating images and stories to EarthSky. Trained as a geochemist, he spent his early years with the Geological Survey of Papua New Guinea, specializing in metals and volcanoes. In 1989, he moved to the Zimbabwe Geological Survey as Chief Economic Geologist and has lived and worked in Zimbabwe ever since. Peter is now retired to Zimbabwe, in a house with a beautiful view in Murambi East, Mutare, where he pursues favorite hobbies including construction of electronic gadgets, listening to music, gardening, surfing the Internet ... and photography.