Many of you know I have been working on my Lunar II observing program. Well, I finished it yesterday morning, about 6 a.m.! I just need to submit my paperwork to our ALCor or the program coordinator.
Yesterday's Moon was 27 days old, a thin waning crescent, rising at 3:46 am. I got up about 0550, because I knew the Moon wouldn't be above the trees across the street until around 0600. Sure enough, about 0620 it peeked between two tall pine trees, and I was able to make my final observation for the Lunar II award. Dr. Ernest Cherrington, in his book Exploring the Moon Through Binoculars and Small Telescopes, on page 184 states, "The 27-day moon is an unusual sight -- a sight which most people probably never see during their entire lives." And I can understand why: (1) you have to get up at an ungodly hour to see it; (2) if you are up at that hour, you're probably getting ready for work or school, but you have to be looking UP toward the east, and you need a low enough horizon to see the Moon; and (3) it disappears as soon as the sun rises. I went back out about an hour later, and the Moon was GONE! It faded into the bright blue sky.
Well, I was challenged to try to see the 28-day-old Moon this morning, one day before New Moon. If few have seen the 27-day Moon, even fewer have seen the 28-day Moon, right? Moonrise was 0451 today, so I rolled out of bed about 0530. I knew I would never see it above the trees before sunrise, so I went into the front yard with my Orion 8x42 binoculars and saw the tiny crescent rising above the neighbor's house across the street. With my binos I was able to see the tiny bright "fingernail", surrounded on the rest of the moon's disc by Earthshine -- the whole Moon was in shadow, re-reflecting light bouncing off the surface of Earth.
Now that I have completed both Astronomical League's Lunar Program (20 years ago!) and now the Lunar II Program, I am tempted to follow Cherrington's day-by-day observations of the Moon in his excellent book. I initially did the Lunar Program back in 2001 because my untrained eyes had trouble seeing the faint fuzzy Messier objects. Now I want to keep looking at the Moon, because my cataract-clouded eyes can no longer see the dim objects again, but I can see the bright Moon. I hope to get the cataracts removed soon, possibly in the next few months.