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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Astronomy

30 Apr 2016
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Make necessary preparations to safely observe the transit of Mercury across the sun on May 9. Jupiter is brightest “star” in evening sky this spring until Mars offers serious competition in late May, as the red planet presents its brightest and closest approach since 2005. The moon and Jupiter will pair up on May 14, while a “blue moon” and red Mars, at its brightest, team up on May 21. On our chart depicting the sky at evening mid-twilight in May, we find two bright stars—Rigel south of west, and Aldebaran in the west-northwest—departing early in the month. The brightest star, Sirius, the Dog Star, is next to go, in the west-southwest. All that then remains of the Winter Hexagon will be the “Spring Arch” of Procyon, Pollux (with Castor 4.5 degrees to its right) and Capella. Orion’s shoulder Betelgeuse, below the arch, drops out by late May, soon after…
30 Mar 2016
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Jupiter and Sirius—until it departs—continue to dominate the evening sky in April. This year’s best evening appearance of Mercury in mid-April precedes its transit across the Sun on May 9. Meanwhile, Mars brightens on its way to next month’s closest approach since 2005. The Mars-Saturn-Antares triangle, prominent in morning, can also be seen rising very late in evening. Don’t miss this spring’s offerings to get close-up telescopic views of some planets! First, some dates to keep in mind. April 7: The new moon occurs at 4:24 a.m., and the moon at perigee at 11 a.m. Large tides! April 8: The young crescent Moon, age 39 hours, is easy to see in twilight. Look for Mercury to the moon’s lower right. April 10: The moon occults Aldebaran in daytime; look at it with a telescope. In the evening, find this star and the Hyades cluster closely to the lower right of…
26 Feb 2016
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From early March through early June 2016, the Earth will overtake all three bright outer planets within just 87 days, with each planet reaching peak brilliance and all-night visibility: Jupiter in early March; Mars in late May; and Saturn in early June. For several months following these oppositions, each respective planet will remain conveniently visible in the evening sky … at last! What does opposition mean? When at opposition as seen from Earth, a planet appears at or nearly 180 degrees from the sun, and appears on the opposite side of the sky from where the sun is located. Thus, the planet will be up all night: low in the eastern sky at dusk, high in the south in the middle of the night, and low in the western sky at dawn. Near the date of its opposition, a planet reaches its closest approach to Earth, and its peak in…