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Astronomy

31 Aug 2020
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Venus, the brightest planet, and ruddy Mars dominate September’s predawn mornings. Bright Jupiter and nearby Saturn float in the southern sky at nightfall, while creeping slightly closer together. Mars doubles in brilliance for the second consecutive month—and will outshine Jupiter by late September—while the red planet’s rising time shifts two hours earlier, into evening twilight. Do you enjoy watching moonrises? During Sept. 1-7, the moon rises no more than 30 minutes later on each successive evening. Notice the moon’s reddened color and flattened shape at each moonrise; the moon’s decreasing phase from one day to the next; and the northward shift of its rising place from day to day, from the full moon’s rise at 7:23 p.m. on Sept. 1, through the 70-percent full moon’s rise at 10:13 p.m. on Sept. 7. Note bright Mars less than a degree above the rising moon on evening of Sept. 5. They’re still…
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…

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