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Astronomy

31 Oct 2019
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The sky’s highlights in November include Mars and Spica forming a colorful pair before dawn on Nov. 10. Mercury crosses the sun Nov. 11 to join Spica and Mars a week later. Venus and Jupiter form a brilliant pair at dusk Nov. 23-24. The moon passes three bright evening planets Nov. 27-29. Our evening twilight chart for November shows Venus higher each evening at the same stage of twilight, while Jupiter and Saturn, dragged westward along with the starry background, appear lower. The Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar highlights the resulting spectacular gatherings of Nov. 24, Nov. 28 and Dec. 10 involving these planets. Planets at dusk: Begin looking low in the southwest about a half-hour after sunset to catch the two brightest planets, Venus (magnitude -3.9), and Jupiter (-1.9, only one-sixth as bright). They are 20 degrees apart on Nov. 4; 10 degrees apart on Nov. 14; and within 5…
26 Sep 2019
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As October both begins and ends, the moon will be sweeping through an evening lineup of four planets. On October evenings, bright Jupiter is in the south-southwest to southwest at dusk, with Saturn to its left in the south to south-southwest; both remain outstanding for telescopic viewing, Jupiter with its cloud belts and four bright moons, and Saturn with its rings now tipped 25 degrees from edgewise. These giant planets appear 26 degrees apart on the sky’s dome on Oct. 1, narrowing to 22 degrees apart by Oct. 31. Follow their eastward motions against background stars, until the seasonal westward drift of the constellations drags both slow-moving planets to the southwest horizon before year’s end. Note reddish twinkling Antares, heart of Scorpius, 10 to 14 degrees to the lower right of Jupiter during October. Watch Jupiter pass 2.1 degrees north of a third-magnitude star on Oct. 22. Look early in…
29 Aug 2019
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From Sagittarius to Gemini and back, the moon swings! And the crescent rocks! Enjoy watching moonrises? The harvest moon on Friday the 13th is the first of a half-dozen moonrises in a row taking place in the early evening, through Sept. 18. Meanwhile, Jupiter shines steady and brightest at dusk, and Sirius, the “Dog Star,” twinkles brightest at dawn. Overnight on Sept. 22—actually at 12:50 a.m., Monday, Sept. 23—the sun is directly over Earth’s equator, marking the start of autumn for residents of the Northern Hemisphere. On the date of an equinox, the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west 12 hours later. (Well, this is not precisely true, because of the way sunrise and sunset are defined—when the top of the solar disk, rather than its center, appears on an ideal, flat horizon; refraction by our atmosphere uplifts the sun’s disk and lengthens the day by…

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