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Astronomy

01 Oct 2013
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Follow the moon each day at dusk or dawn—and within one cycle, it will introduce you to as many as all five naked-eye planets, and the five bright stars of first magnitude within the belt of zodiac constellations. The new moon occurs on Friday, Oct. 4. Two days later, on Sunday evening, Oct. 6, about 20 minutes after sunset, a thin sliver of a young lunar crescent will appear very low in the west-southwest, 20 degrees to the lower right of the bright “evening star,” Venus. Valley residents would need to seek out a place with an unobstructed sight line in that direction, since the moon will be less than 6 degrees up at 7 p.m., within a half-hour after sunset. (In other words, if you’re in downtown Palm Springs or elsewhere near the mountains, you’re out of luck!) But the view through binoculars is worthwhile: Flanking the moon will…
01 Sep 2013
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The Coachella Valley is a great place for inspiring views of the night sky—and among the visually impressive events is the pairing of Venus and the crescent moon. While Venus is still visible in the evening sky for a few more months, Venus-Moon pairings will occur at dusk on Sept. 8, Oct. 7 and 8, Nov. 6, Dec. 5, and Jan. 1 and 2. Of these, the pairing this month, on Sunday, Sept. 8, will be the closest, and the moon will even help the observer spot Venus as they move together across the daytime sky. From Southern California, the moon and Venus appear closest, in the southeast sky shortly after noon, with Venus only 0.6 degrees, or just more than the moon’s width, from the northern cusp or point of the crescent. When the moon and Venus are highest—due south, nearly halfway from horizon to overhead around 3:15 p.m.—they’re…
01 Aug 2013
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At dusk, watch Venus slowly close in on Spica and Saturn, until pairings occur in September. Meanwhile, the best Milky Way viewing occurs this year on evenings through Aug. 9, and then again Aug. 26 through Sept. 7. Get to a dark site by nightfall, and enjoy! Dark moonless predawn hours of Aug. 12 and 13 make this an excellent year for the annual Perseid meteor shower. And mid-August, dawn brings forth the greatest number of bright stars visible simultaneously. Venus continues as the brilliant evening “star” low in evening twilight, while drifting from west to west-southwest as month progresses. Valley residents living closely east of mountains (such as near downtown Palm Springs) will want to seek out a location where the mountains don’t block the planet from view. Venus will grace our evening sky until early January 2014. Until then, a waxing crescent moon passes Venus monthly, producing the…