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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Astronomy

30 Aug 2018
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Four planets are still visible at dusk, until Venus departs in early October. Venus is very low in the west-southwest, with Jupiter in the southwest, and Mars in the south-southeast, standing out in brilliance. As Earth recedes from Mars, the red planet slips to third place in brightness, after Venus and Jupiter. Saturn, in the south, ranks sixth, a little fainter than the stars Arcturus in the west, and Vega just north of overhead. Other bright stars: Spica is 1.3 degrees to the upper right of Venus on Sept. 1 and sinks into bright twilight to the lower right of Venus by midmonth. Use binoculars to keep seeing Spica for a while longer. Antares is below a line joining Jupiter and Saturn. Altair and Deneb complete the Summer Triangle with Vega. Follow the moon from a thin crescent very low in the west on Sept. 10, to full, low south…
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…