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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Astronomy

01 Jan 2016
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From late January through most of February, early risers can enjoy all five bright planets before dawn. The waning moon sweeps past four of these planets Dec. 31-Jan. 7, and past all five Jan. 27-Feb. 6. One hour before sunrise, find brilliant Venus in the southwest, with Saturn nearby to its upper right Jan. 1-8, and to the lower left thereafter. These two planets are 8 degrees apart on Jan. 1, closing to 5 degrees on Jan. 4. On two mornings, they’ll form a spectacular close pair in the same telescopic field, within 0.7 degrees, on Jan. 8, and 0.5 degrees on Jan. 9. They’re still within 4 degrees on Jan. 12, widening to 7 degrees on Jan. 15. Each day, Venus goes east against background stars by just more than 1.2 degrees, while Saturn goes by only 0.1 degrees, and Mars goes east about 0.5 degrees. Watch Venus pass…
30 Nov 2015
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In evening twilight in December, the Summer Triangle is well up in the west, getting lower as the month progresses. Its brightest member is blue-white Vega, at its northwest (lower right) corner. Altair marks the southern point of the Triangle, and Deneb the northeast corner, above Vega. Follow the Summer Triangle within the first hour after sunset until mid-January, when Altair sinks into the twilight glow. Solitary Fomalhaut, marking the mouth of the Southern Fish, drifts low across the southern sky in December’s evening twilight. From late in December’s second week into early January, try to find Mercury very low in the southwestern twilight glow; binoculars make the search easier. Yellowish Capella climbs in the northeast, while to its lower right, ascending in the east-northeast to east, we find red-orange Aldebaran, eye of Taurus the Bull. This star is at opposition to the sun each year around the start of…
31 Oct 2015
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In evening twilight during November, the holdover Summer Triangle, with its brightest member blue-white Vega at its northwest corner, drifts slowly westward from nearly overhead. Meanwhile, lonely Fomalhaut, mouth of the Southern Fish, moves from southeast toward the south. Bright Arcturus departs in the west-northwest, making way for almost equally bright Capella, rising in the northeast. Very low in the southwest to west-southwest, if mountains don’t block your view, Saturn and Antares (8 degrees to the planet’s left) are accessible with binoculars early in the month, before their departure. Aldebaran, eye of Taurus the Bull, is at opposition as Earth passes between that star and the sun each year around Dec. 1; look for a reddish star rising in the east-northeast during twilight in late November. Arabic in origin, the name Aldebaran means the follower, alluding to the star’s pursuit of the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster across the…