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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Astronomy

28 Feb 2014
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In early March 2014, as seen from the Coachella Valley, the three brightest “stars” visible at dusk all reach their highest points within a span of 21 minutes. In order of brilliance, they are Jupiter, passing within 11 degrees south of overhead; Sirius, the “Dog Star,” 40 degrees up in the south; and Canopus, “Great Star of the (far) South,” less than 4 degrees up when passing due south, about 21 minutes before Sirius does. Canopus passes directly overhead for observers near latitude 53 degrees south—in other words, southern Argentina or Chile. But here in the Coachella Valley, you must choose your spot carefully, or the mountains might block your view. From the western Coachella Valley, Canopus passes due south only 4 degrees up in a dark sky at 7:31 p.m. on March 1, and then four minutes earlier each day, to 7:03 p.m. on March 8, and then 7:59…
16 Feb 2014
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Author Fred Schaaf describes a very thin crescent moon in his book The 50 Best Sights in Astronomy and How to See Them. Recounting an early sighting of a very young moon, he writes that the moon was “thin as a single snippet of pale gold hair falling, falling gently through dusk to the repose of the low forest horizon,” and that it was “a slight but dreaming and luminous smile scarcely touching the face of that twilight sky, a face whose tender tones and shades were the only things which could possibly be delicate enough to hold the moon. … An indelible mark, a slenderest sliver of pure celestial beauty that eternity keeps forever from harm or slightest alteration.” Here in the Coachella Valley and elsewhere in the U.S., there will be yet another rare chance to see not just one, but two unusually thin crescent moons, about 36…
01 Feb 2014
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February 2014 at dusk: The two brightest “stars” at dusk in February are, by a wide margin, steady yellowish Jupiter, high in the east, and blue-white, madly twinkling Sirius, the dog star, in the southeast. The only other evening planet is Mercury, very low south of west, but it will fade and is on its way to conjunction with the sun. The waxing gibbous moon, four days before full, appears near Jupiter on the evening of Feb. 10. Surrounding Jupiter is the huge Winter Hexagon of Sirius-Procyon-Pollux-Capella-Aldebaran-Rigel. The noticeably red star Betelgeuse is also within the hexagon. Find the three-star belt of Orion, the hunter, midway between Betelgeuse and bluish Rigel. The belt, extended southeastward, locates Sirius. Extend the belt in the opposite direction, and turn north a bit, and you’ll find Aldebaran, eye of Taurus, the bull. Go farther to find the Pleiades, or seven sisters—a wonderful sight for…