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Astronomy

28 Mar 2019
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My lifelong interest in sky-watching began in the school year 1951-52, a year after our sixth-grade teacher led us to create a mural of the solar system, with the planet sizes to scale. When I was in seventh-grade, our school library included two books which really changed my life: A Dipper Full of Stars, by Lou Williams Page, originally published by in 1944—and revised and republished as a California state textbook in 1959! The other book was The Friendly Stars, by Martha Evans Martin, published in 1907. On the first page of A Dipper Full of Stars is a quote from Harlan T. Stetson’s Man and the Stars: “To acquire some appreciation of the meaning of the skies, one must make the friendship of the stars; watch their majestic march through the night, and the slow seasonal advance of constellation after constellation from east to west throughout the year. To…
27 Feb 2019
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In March 2019, early risers can enjoy a widening panorama of planets in the southeast quadrant of the sky—from the lower left to the upper right, one hour before sunrise, they are Venus, Saturn and Jupiter. A waning moon adds its beauty to this section of the sky through March 2, and again March 26 through April 2. Moon pairings with bright Jupiter, the westernmost of the three planets, occur on Feb. 27 and March 27. Since Saturn is currently 26 degrees (two days of moon travel) east of Jupiter, the moon will pass Saturn on March 1 and 29. Venus, the easternmost of the three planets and the brightest, is rapidly moving eastward, so Venus’ pairings with the moon occur on March 2 and on April 2. After March, Coachella Valley residents won’t catch Venus in a dark sky (in the absence of twilight) again until mid-November, after the…
31 Jan 2019
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February offers beautiful sights for the unaided eye and the eye aided with binoculars—especially for early risers getting out an hour before sunrise. There’ll be close pairings of the moon with bright Venus just before and after the shortest month of the year—on Jan. 31 and March 2—providing chances to spot Venus in the daytime with binoculars and even the unaided eye. Venus and Saturn will appear just 1.1 degrees apart on Feb. 18. It’ll be worthwhile to watch that pair for changes on several adjacent mornings. Planets at dawn: The pairing of Venus and the crescent moon on Thursday, Jan. 31, will be unusually close and very striking, before dawn and even long after sunrise. From the Coachella Valley, Venus and the center of the moon’s disk will be just 1.5 degrees apart and closing at 5 a.m. Sunrise occurs in Palm Springs at 6:43 a.m., with Venus just…

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