Maybe you’ve already seen it. Low in the east, just before dawn—say at 6:15 or so—is the brightest “star” in the heavens. It’s been hovering there for months, generating UFO reports. It’s the Morning Star, Venus. Yes, really and truly, Venus is single-handedly responsible for more UFO sightings than any other object.
(Even then-governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia phoned the state police to report a UFO that proved to be Venus.)
Mars, Venus, and the Moon
Just above dazzling Venus is a much-fainter orange “star”—and this is Mars. That they’re so close together makes it a worthy conjunction. But it’s about to get even better.
Before sunrise on Tuesday, October 17, look toward the eastern sky again. The waning crescent Moon will join the party and hover closely to the left of Mars, and above Venus. What a sight!
As dawn approaches, Mars will disappear in the glare and the Moon and Venus shine as the brightest objects in the sky (besides our Sun).
Click here to get the rising times for the Moon, Sun, Mars, and Venus in your sky.
A Smiling Moon
There’s more. The Moon’s horns will point straight up, making it look more like a smile than at any other night of the entire year. Because, usually, the Moon’s crescent is tilted on its side to some degree, like an archer’s bow. But not Tuesday.
The very next morning, the Moon will be a thinner crescent and much lower, and now dangle beneath Venus. That’s Wednesday morning, still at that same 6 or 6:30 AM time frame.
Still more cool stuff? Okay, notice that, both mornings, the dark part of the Moon will be vividly glowing. This is Earthshine, traditionally called “The new Moon in the old Moon’s Arms.”
It’s sometimes also called the “Ashen Light.” What’s really happening is that, those mornings, if you lived on the Moon, you’d see the Earth in your sky appearing very nearly full. And a “full Earth” is dazzling. It’s 40 times brighter than the Full Moon looks in our own sky. Bright enough to cover the Moon’s dark portion with Earth-light. Thus that glow is us! Our own planet’s illumination, bouncing back for our own narcissistic enjoyment.
Read more in “What is Earthshine?“
So any morning: See Venus and Mars, both on the far side of the Sun. And Tuesday they’re joined by the year’s only smiling Moon. And Earthshine. All in the east. Worth setting the alarm.