early-risers have quite a few interesting solar system alignments to entertain them for the next several mornings!
before the sun rises to outshine everything in the sky, three planets glow brightly toward the southeast: jupiter, venus, and mars. monday morning, march 3rd, the moon rises above the horizon just after jupiter, showing off its waning crescent to jupiter's lower left. the next morning, the sliver moon will shine between jupiter and the planet pair, venus and mercury! wednesday morning, the moon passes very close to mercury and venus... so close that the moon will pass in front of venus during the day!!
the lunar occultation of venus will be visible from many parts of north america (see map below). in austin, texas, we will be able to see the moon cover venus at 12:12pm (here's a table to determine times of occult for other locations - note that times are given in Universal Time so i subtracted 6 hours to get CST).
there are many times when venus is bright enough to be seen during the day, but it's a difficult (nearly impossible) task to see it when you don't know exactly where to look! this occultation will allow more of us to see venus during the day, because the much bigger target, the moon, will be so close! from texas, the crescent moon will be about 30 degrees up in the sky from the horizon, but still difficult to spot since only a tiny portion will be lit up by reflected sunlight. try to find the moon by looking southeast around noon, then look for venus just to the left of the moon.
i really enjoy seeing distant objects other than the sun in the sky during the day, so i'll be eating my lunch outside this wednesday!!