(In the image above, 2020, July 17: The crescent moon, Brilliant Venus, and Aldebaran shine from the eastern during early morning twilight.)
Venus and the moon make a spectacular scene before sunrise on August 15. Artists and photographers can create inspiring interpretations of the view.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Venus sparkles in the eastern sky before sunrise during the summer and autumn months. During the moon’s monthly journey, it moves past this brilliant planet. During August, the moon makes a close pass with Venus, creating the inspiring scene. From North America, the thin lunar crescent, that is about 15% illuminated, is 3.6° to the upper left of the brilliant planet.
At mid-northern latitudes on August 15, Venus rises over three hours before sunrise. By an hour later, the Venus – Moon pair is over 15° in altitude in the eastern sky. Early risers may have to find a spot away from trees, houses, and other obstructions to see Venus and the moon in the eastern sky.
As the morning progresses and the sky brightens, Venus and the moon rise higher in the sky.
Each stage of morning twilight presents spectacular views of the celestial pair shining in the eastern sky and varying opportunities to capture the view with a camera.
The pair can be photographed with cameras that have time exposure settings. Exposures can range from fractions of a second through a few seconds. By varying the exposure times, a suitable image can be captured.
The longer the exposure, the more the moon’s nighttime side appears in the photo. This gentle illumination known as “Earthshine,” is from sunlight reflected from Earth’s clouds, continents, and oceans. It softly illuminates the night portion of the moon.
At some lunar phases the sunlight reflected from the moon illuminates Earth’s terrestrial features. This is bright enough to create shadows on the ground.
The moon and Venus may be visible after sunrise and well into the morning.
Coincidentally, the Venus – Moon grouping occurs at the same time that Sirius is making its first appearance in the morning sky before sunrise. About 45 minutes before sunrise, Sirius is above the horizon in the east-southeast.
On September 14, the moon passes Venus again, but the moon is farther away and the pair is lower in the sky.
The August 15 grouping of Venus and the crescent moon is the best grouping during Venus’ current appearance in the morning sky, because the two are visible together for over 3 hours before sunrise.
For more about the sky in August, click here.
(Photos and charts by the author.)