Brilliant Venus pairs closely with a very thin crescent Moon before dawn on on Wednesday, February 26th. The view will be great from the U.S., fantastic from Europe, and the Moon even occults Venus as seen from parts of Africa.
The invisible clockwork of the solar system occasionally brings two prominent objects together in the sky, and the next such pairing occurs before dawn on Wednesday, February 26th.
That's when early risers get to see dazzling Venus, magnitude –4.8, perched to the upper right of a waning crescent Moon that's just 10% illuminated.
This is sure to catch the eye of anyone looking toward the predawn eastern horizon. The two appear about 3½° apart for those on the East Coast, but they'll have separated to about 5° by the time they've popped into view for those out West.
Telescopically, Venus also shows a crescent phase, though not nearly as thin as the Moon's. The similarity can be deceiving, though: while the Moon is roughly 224,000 miles (360,000 km) from Earth, Venus is some 200 times more distant.
This would be a great opportunity to try a little early-morning astrophotography using cameras with lenses of 50 to 200 mm in focal length. Use a tripod to steady the view, and operate the camera remotely if possible (or use the self-timer function).
The pairing is far more breathtaking for those of you in Europe and Africa. From those locations, the separation drops to 1° or less. In fact, the Moon actually passes in front of Venus for a wide swath of central Africa. Click here for a timetable of disappearances and reappearances for various cities.