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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Astronomy

28 Jun 2019
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In July, watch Saturn follow Jupiter into the evening sky. Witness a complete lunar cycle from beginning to end, as the best season for Milky Way evening viewing gets under way. On July 9, the Earth overtakes Saturn, and the planet appears at opposition, 180 degrees from the sun, and visible all night: In the southeast at dusk, highest in the south in middle of night, and in the southwest at dawn. We overtook Jupiter 29 days earlier, on June 10. Each is a worthy showpiece for telescopic viewing: Jupiter, with dark cloud belts parallel to its equator, and four bright satellites discovered by Galileo in 1610; and Saturn, with rings now tipped a generous 24 degrees from edgewise. As we overtake them, both planets retrograde—go west against background stars, by just more than 2 degrees in July. So they stay 31 degrees apart all month, with Jupiter creeping closer…
30 May 2019
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June evenings will be wonderful for viewing the skies, especially if you stay up late enough until the sky fully darkens. With daylight saving time in effect on these longest days of the year, that might be a tall order! Mercury starts 16 degrees to the lower right of Mars on June 1, climbing to 0.3 degrees above Mars on June 18, at their closest pairing. Mercury and Mars remain within 3 degrees June 14-24. Mercury decreases in brightness, from magnitude -1.0 on June 1, through 0.0 on June 16, to +1.0 on June 30. Mercury fades rapidly in first days of July, but in June, it remains much brighter than Mars’ magnitude +1.8—as faint as Mars ever gets. Elsewhere in the west to northwest, Procyon and Capella drop out of sight, but the Gemini Twins, Pollux and Castor, 4.5 degrees apart, hold on. During June 18-21, first Mercury, then…
30 Apr 2019
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A thin crescent moon low in the west-northwest at dusk on May 5 marks the start of Ramadan, with a month-long daytime fast beginning the next day. Nearly two weeks later, a “blue moon”—the third of four full moons within the season—is visible through all nighttime hours of May 18. Late in the month, bright Jupiter begins rising in southeast during early evening hours. The May evening twilight chart shows that Rigel, Aldebaran, Sirius and Betelgeuse disappear this month, leaving four winter stars—Procyon, Pollux, Castor and Capella—forming an arch in the western sky through month’s end, when Mercury is just starting an evening appearance very low in the west-northwest. Regulus in Leo crosses high in the south into the west-southwest. Golden zero-magnitude Arcturus rises high in the eastern sky, with blue-white first-magnitude Spica in Virgo to its lower right. Zero-magnitude Vega, the brightest member of the Summer Triangle and first…

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