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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Astronomy

29 Jul 2019
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Evenings this month feature the gas-giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, and on dark moonless nights, the Milky Way. Predawn skies include the bright stars we’ll meet again on winter evenings—and a brief visit by our solar system’s smallest planet, Mercury. In the evening, bright Jupiter gleams in the south to south-southwest at dusk, while Saturn is in the southeast to south-southeast, 31 to 29 degrees east (to the left) of Jupiter. Note Antares, heart of Scorpius, twinkling to Jupiter’s lower right. Jupiter lingers 7 degrees from this red supergiant star from mid-July through first week of September; their least separation of 6.7 degrees occurs Aug. 8-15 as Jupiter ends retrograde on Aug. 11. Follow the moon at dusk Aug. 2-15. On Aug. 2, the thin crescent moon is easy to see, though very low, a little north of due west. Don’t miss a striking pairing of the moon and Jupiter,…
28 Jun 2019
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In July, watch Saturn follow Jupiter into the evening sky. Witness a complete lunar cycle from beginning to end, as the best season for Milky Way evening viewing gets under way. On July 9, the Earth overtakes Saturn, and the planet appears at opposition, 180 degrees from the sun, and visible all night: In the southeast at dusk, highest in the south in middle of night, and in the southwest at dawn. We overtook Jupiter 29 days earlier, on June 10. Each is a worthy showpiece for telescopic viewing: Jupiter, with dark cloud belts parallel to its equator, and four bright satellites discovered by Galileo in 1610; and Saturn, with rings now tipped a generous 24 degrees from edgewise. As we overtake them, both planets retrograde—go west against background stars, by just more than 2 degrees in July. So they stay 31 degrees apart all month, with Jupiter creeping closer…
30 May 2019
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June evenings will be wonderful for viewing the skies, especially if you stay up late enough until the sky fully darkens. With daylight saving time in effect on these longest days of the year, that might be a tall order! Mercury starts 16 degrees to the lower right of Mars on June 1, climbing to 0.3 degrees above Mars on June 18, at their closest pairing. Mercury and Mars remain within 3 degrees June 14-24. Mercury decreases in brightness, from magnitude -1.0 on June 1, through 0.0 on June 16, to +1.0 on June 30. Mercury fades rapidly in first days of July, but in June, it remains much brighter than Mars’ magnitude +1.8—as faint as Mars ever gets. Elsewhere in the west to northwest, Procyon and Capella drop out of sight, but the Gemini Twins, Pollux and Castor, 4.5 degrees apart, hold on. During June 18-21, first Mercury, then…

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