Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm


30 Jul 2020
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August’s planetary scene features giants in tandem in the evening—and four very close pairings of the moon with the three brightest planets. The Perseid meteor shower, somewhat diminished by moonlight this year, peaks in predawn on Aug. 12. Going camping? The best evenings for viewing the Milky Way from dark sites 90 minutes to three hours after sunset are Aug. 9-21. Bright Jupiter in the southeast to south-southeast at dusk, and Saturn about 8 degrees to its east, are an attractive pair for evening telescopic observation. Views of Jupiter’s cloud belts and four bright satellites, and Saturn’s spectacular rings, always inspire. Jupiter will be near the moon; on Aug. 1, just before sunset, using binoculars, try to see Jupiter in the daytime, within 3.2 degrees to the upper right of the moon. An hour after sunset, they’re easy to see with the unaided eye, 3.6 degrees apart. On the next…
30 Jun 2020
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Good news for evening viewers! Jupiter and closely following Saturn are rising about a half-hour earlier per week, so by the dates of their respective oppositions, on the nights of July 14 and 20, they reach peak brilliance and will have just risen at sunset. As darkness descends, the beautiful pair of giant planets will be in the east-southeast, in the deep blue part of the sky, opposite the sun’s direction. After their oppositions, Jupiter and Saturn will remain visible in the evening sky until early in January 2021. If you enjoy the cool of the morning, then centering your outings 60 to 90 minutes before sunrise will give you many planetary visual treats—including Venus reaching peak brilliance in the east. Starting July 1, Venus slowly moves across the Hyades star cluster until passing just 1 degree north of Aldebaran July 11 and 12. By then, Jupiter and Saturn are…
28 May 2020
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Midday on June 20 (12:48 p.m. in Palm Springs), the sun passes only 10 degrees south of overhead in the Coachella Valley. Summer officially begins at 2:44 p.m., when the sun is exactly over the Tropic of Cancer, east-northeast of Hawaii. My advice: Avoid the intense light and heat of midday! Get out during the cool predawn, mostly between 90 minutes and one hour before sunrise, to enjoy the lineup of three or four naked-eye planets. On mornings in June, Jupiter and Saturn will catch your eye, because they’re only 5-6 degrees apart, drifting across the sky from the south to southwest—Jupiter is the brighter, westernmost member of the pair—while moving little among the stars near the border of Sagittarius and Capricornus. Mars moves from Aquarius into Pisces in June, yet strangely stays fixed in the southeast those 30 mornings, while the zodiac background seems to scroll westward behind the…