Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm


30 Jul 2018
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Evenings in August feature a spectacular panorama of four planets, including Venus, Jupiter and Mars far outshining all nighttime stars, and Saturn, ranking sixth in brilliance, after only those three planets and the stars Arcturus and Vega. Set up a telescope and share views of these four showpiece planets. For best results, view them in order from west to southeast at dusk: 1. Venus changes from gibbous to crescent phase, 57 percent full on Aug. 1, to 40 percent on the 31st. (Venus will be even more impressive in September, as it goes through thinner crescent phases, with the disk growing in apparent size as Venus approaches Earth.) 2. Jupiter shows its cloud belts and as many as all four of the bright moons discovered by Galileo. 3. Saturn displays its rings still tipped a generous 26 degrees into our view, with satellite Titan in a 16-day orbit. 4. Mars’…
29 Jun 2018
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It’s planetfest, with five bright planets in July’s evening hours! Three of them far outshine all stars. (But early in the month, you must wait until after nightfall to see Mars.) Venus, the brightest, gleams at magnitude -4.1 to -4.3 in the west at dusk, and sets more than two hours after sunset. Jupiter glows at magnitude -2.3 to -2.1 in the south to south-southwest at dusk. Mars rises in the east-southeast to southeast two hours after sunset on July 1, one hour after sunset on the 16th, and at sunset on the 31st. Earth overtakes Mars on the night of July 26, passing within 35.8 million miles four nights later, on the night of July 30-31. This is our closest approach to Mars since 2003, and the nearest until 2035. As Earth approaches Mars in July, the red planet attains rare brilliance, kindling from magnitude -2.2 to -2.8, to…
31 May 2018
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At dusk in June, two planets clearly outshine all the stars. Venus, at magnitude -4 in the west-northwest, sets about 2.5 hours after sunset. Jupiter, near magnitude -2.4 in the southeast to south at dusk, reaches its highest point in the south about three hours after sunset on June 1, moving to one hour after sunset at month’s end. Mercury passes superior conjunction on the far side of the sun on June 5. Near the perihelion of its orbit, it emerges very swiftly into the evening sky. Using binoculars, look very low in the west-northwest twilight glow, to the lower right of Venus, by 25 degrees on June 16; 20 degrees on June 25; and 17 degrees on June 30. Later in the evening, Saturn rises within two hours after sunset on June 1, moving to around sunset on June 24, three days before opposition. Mars rises within four hours…

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