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Astronomy

01 Jul 2013
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In July 2013, the brilliant evening “star” Venus gleams low in evening twilight, drifting from west-northwest to west as month progresses. Valley residents living near the mountains (in downtown Palm Springs, for example) will have to seek out a location where mountains don’t block the view. On our evening all-sky chart (above), planets are plotted for each day when the Sun has sunk to 9 degrees below the horizon, at mid-twilight. By then, the two naked-eye planets and eight stars of first magnitude or brighter plotted on the chart are easily visible, except for Pollux and Regulus sinking in the twilight glow. In July, from the Coachella Valley, mid-twilight occurs about 45 minutes after sunset. Planet positions are represented by a separate dot for each date, with positions for each Monday in July (1, 8, 15, 22, 29), represented by a larger dot and labeled. We find Venus and Regulus…
02 Jun 2013
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During evening twilight in June 2013, the brilliant evening “star” Venus gleams very low in the west-northwest, while Mercury lingers nearby during the first three weeks. Saturn glows yellowish and steadily, well up in the south-southeast to south, contrasting with the twinkling blue-white star Spica just 12 to 13 degrees to Saturn’s west (right). On our evening all-sky chart, which you can see above, planets are plotted for each day when the sun has sunk to 9 degrees below the horizon, which we call “mid-twilight.” We have chosen that time, because we have found that by then, most planets and stars of first magnitude or brighter are easily visible to the unaided eye. In June, from Palm Springs, it takes 46 or 47 minutes after sunset to reach mid-twilight. Planet positions are represented by a separate dot for each date, with the positions for each Saturday in June (1, 8,…
25 May 2013
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On six evenings—from Friday, May 24, through Wednesday, May 29, including all of the Memorial Day weekend—three bright planets will form a “trio,” fitting into a 5-degree field of view, low in the west-northwest sky at dusk. Ordinary binoculars, with magnifications of 7- to 10-power, will take in all three planets—Venus, Mercury and Jupiter—simultaneously. Due to the differences in the speeds of the planets in their orbits around the sun, the arrangement of the planets will change from one night to the next. Illustrations of the nightly arrangements of the planets appear on the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar, available online at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar. Saturn will also be visible, well up in the southeastern sky on the dates of the trio, May 24-29. A telescope will easily show Saturn’s rings. On Friday, May 24, the first evening of the trio, Venus is within 4 degrees (to the lower right) of Jupiter, while…

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