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Astronomy

25 Dec 2019
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Venus climbs higher above the setting sun week by week, and late in January sets more than three hours after sunset. Mercury, after passing the far side of the sun on Jan. 10, emerges into the west-southwest evening twilight sky to the lower right of Venus by the last week of month. Mars, very slowly brightening, appears in the southeast morning sky. Jupiter emerges into the southeast morning sky to the lower left of Mars by mid-January, followed by Saturn in early February. By modeling the solar system on orbit charts, or—here’s a weird party idea—asking friends to act out the motions of the planets, you can see why, when an outer planet such as Mars, Jupiter or Saturn is behind the sun, it is transitioning from the evening sky to the morning sky; and why, when either inner planet, Mercury or Venus, is behind the sun, it is transitioning…
28 Nov 2019
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Venus becomes ever more prominent in the evening, while Jupiter, and then Saturn, sink into the southwest twilight glow in December. Mars, slowly brightening, appears in the southeast morning sky, with bright Mercury below it in the first half of the month. Do not miss Venus and Saturn within 5 degrees Dec. 7-14 (see right), with their closest pairing 1.8 degrees apart on Dec. 10; and the spectacular Venus-moon conjunction on Dec. 28. Three planets span 18 degrees in the southwest at dusk in early December. On Dec. 1, find Venus, magnitude -3.9, with Jupiter, magnitude -1.8, just 8 degrees to the lower right, and Saturn, magnitude +0.6, 11 degrees to Venus’ upper left. Venus is now on the far side of its orbit, with its light taking 12 minutes to reach us, compared to the sun’s eight minutes. Light reflected from Jupiter and Saturn takes 51 and 90 minutes,…
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…

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