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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Astronomy

29 Aug 2019
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From Sagittarius to Gemini and back, the moon swings! And the crescent rocks! Enjoy watching moonrises? The harvest moon on Friday the 13th is the first of a half-dozen moonrises in a row taking place in the early evening, through Sept. 18. Meanwhile, Jupiter shines steady and brightest at dusk, and Sirius, the “Dog Star,” twinkles brightest at dawn. Overnight on Sept. 22—actually at 12:50 a.m., Monday, Sept. 23—the sun is directly over Earth’s equator, marking the start of autumn for residents of the Northern Hemisphere. On the date of an equinox, the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west 12 hours later. (Well, this is not precisely true, because of the way sunrise and sunset are defined—when the top of the solar disk, rather than its center, appears on an ideal, flat horizon; refraction by our atmosphere uplifts the sun’s disk and lengthens the day by…
29 Jul 2019
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Evenings this month feature the gas-giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, and on dark moonless nights, the Milky Way. Predawn skies include the bright stars we’ll meet again on winter evenings—and a brief visit by our solar system’s smallest planet, Mercury. In the evening, bright Jupiter gleams in the south to south-southwest at dusk, while Saturn is in the southeast to south-southeast, 31 to 29 degrees east (to the left) of Jupiter. Note Antares, heart of Scorpius, twinkling to Jupiter’s lower right. Jupiter lingers 7 degrees from this red supergiant star from mid-July through first week of September; their least separation of 6.7 degrees occurs Aug. 8-15 as Jupiter ends retrograde on Aug. 11. Follow the moon at dusk Aug. 2-15. On Aug. 2, the thin crescent moon is easy to see, though very low, a little north of due west. Don’t miss a striking pairing of the moon and Jupiter,…
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…

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