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Astronomy

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…
31 Jul 2015
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Jupiter sets almost an hour after the sun on Aug. 1, and three minutes earlier each evening thereafter. Using binoculars a half-hour after sunset, look very low, about midway between west and west-northwest, to the left of the sunset point. If you can still find Jupiter on Aug. 5, try for Mercury, 1.9 degrees to its lower right. On Aug. 6, Mercury is 0.6 degrees to the upper right of Jupiter, and on Aug. 7, it is 1.4 degrees to Jupiter’s upper left. The solar system’s largest planet will be hidden for several weeks while it passes conjunction on the far side of the sun on Aug. 26. Meanwhile, Mercury makes a very low evening appearance, 4 degrees above the western horizon in mid-twilight (about 40 minutes after sunset) from Aug. 18 to Sept. 4, staying at magnitude 0 while shifting from 3 degrees north of west to 10 degrees…