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Astronomy

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…
29 Sep 2015
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During October and early November, there are exceptionally beautiful gatherings of planets in the morning sky. A waning crescent moon graces the lineup of planets on Oct. 8-11. Oct. 22-29, three planets will converge into a compact group, and on Oct. 25 and 26, the brightest of these, Venus and Jupiter, will pair very closely. With daylight saving time still in effect through October, a brief sky watch about an hour before sunrise would provide a wonderful, rewarding display of planets at a time not unreasonably early. Thursday, Oct. 8, one hour before sunrise: Venus gleams brilliantly within 3 degrees to the lower left of the crescent moon. Bright Jupiter shines 13 degrees to the lower left of Venus. Faint reddish Mars glows 4 degrees above Jupiter and 9 degrees to the lower left of Venus. Mercury, just beginning a morning apparition, rises in the east, within 19 degrees to…
31 Aug 2015
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Spectacular events in September include a close pairing of a waning crescent moon and Venus at dawn on Sept. 10—and a total lunar eclipse in the early evening on Sept. 27. Venus now rises before the sun, and has become a spectacular morning “star” in the east before dawn. Venus reaches its greatest brilliance this year in the third week of September. Now through mid-October, the crescent phase of Venuscan be seen with just a pair of binoculars—just find Venus on any morning before sunup, and then eliminate the planet’s glare against a darkened sky by simply keeping track of it until sunrise or longer. The mornings of Sept. 10 and Oct. 8, with Venus near a crescent moon, are excellent opportunities to easily locate and observe Venus in the daytime. Ranking next in brightness after Venus these morningsare the blue-white Dog Star Sirius in the southeast, and yellow Capella…