Wake up before dawn on the mornings of October 10 and 11, 2020, and let the waning moon show you the zodiacal constellations Gemini and Cancer.
Before midnight October 9, 2020 – or after midnight October 10 – the moon will be rising over your eastern horizon at or near its half-illuminated last quarter phase. It’ll be shining in front of the constellation Gemini the Twins. If you’re more of an early bird than a night owl, get up before dawn to view the moon and Gemini much higher up in the sky. To the north of the moon will be Gemini’s two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux. The other bright star beaming to the south of the moon will be Procyon, the Little Dog Star.
The moon’s exact last quarter phase comes on October 10, 2020, at 0:39 UTC. Although the last quarter moon occurs at the same instant worldwide, the local clock time – and possibly the date – differ by time zone. Depending on where you live worldwide, the last quarter moon falls on October 9 or 10.
Although the sky chart at the top of this page is designed for temperate latitudes in North America, you’ll see the moon passing through the same region of the starry sky from all parts of Earth. The moon moves in front of the constellations of the zodiac at the rate of about 1/2 degree (the moon’s own angular diameter) eastward per hour. So – for example – if you’re in the world’s Eastern Hemisphere at dawn on October 10 and 11, you’ll see the moon offset a bit, with respect to our chart, toward the previous date.
The lit side of a waning moon always points eastward – the moon’s direction of travel – in front of the backdrop stars of the zodiac. On the morning of October 10, from around the world, the moon’s daytime side will be pointing at the hidden treasure at the heart of the constellation Cancer the Crab: a star cluster known as Messier 44, or M44, aka the famous Beehive. Then, on October 11, the moon will sweep 2.1 degrees north of the Beehive at 12:27 UTC.
As seen from North America on the morning of October 11, the moon will meet up with the Beehive at 8:27 a.m. EDT, 7:27 a.m. CDT, 6:27 a.m. MDT and 5:27 a.m. PDT. Cancer makes up for its lackluster stars by sporting one of the most magnificent star clusters in all the heavens. On a dark night – with no moon – this cluster appears as a tiny faint cloud to the unaided eye. Through binoculars, this bit of haze explodes into a sparkling array of stars.
Bottom line: Last quarter moon comes on October 10, 2020. That morning, the moon will be in front of Gemini the Twins. The next morning – October 11 – the moon will be in front of Cancer the Crab.