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Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015

Something for everyone this week

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It seems that all the excitement is in the morning sky this week. Normally I am not a "morning astronomer." Unless there is something really worth getting up for, this week there is ample reason for getting up early.

First, on the morning of Saturday, July 14, a slender crescent moon will be hanging out with the Pleiades star cluster. Look not quite halfway up the sky just above the eastern horizon about an hour before local sunrise.

The cluster is just above and left of the moon.

The next morning, Sunday, July 15, the hits will keep on coming, only this is really one worth getting up for. The moon will be between bright Venus and Jupiter right in the middle of Taurus, the Bull.

Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, is just a little to the lower right. As you are scanning the scene with your binoculars, look for the Hyades star cluster which is behind Aldebaran.

Aldebaran is not a member of the cluster, it is located about halfway to the background cluster. It is a "line-of-sight thing, they just happens to be in the direction we are looking.

If you watch this little group over the next month Venus will be dropping away back toward the horizon while Jupiter and Taurus will continue to get higher in the sky.

While you are watching, notice just below the Venus/ Jupiter/Aldebaran group. Some very bright stars will be rising as the days continue toward the end of the month.

It is our old friend, Orion, the Hunter, who is king of the winter sky.

The unusually bright star off to the left of this little group is Capella, the brightest star in the constellation Auriga, the Charioteer. Auriga a sort of flattened circle constellation with Capella located in the top center.

Use your binoculars and look just to the right of Capella (which has the nickname of "The Goat Star") for a small group of three stars. These are called "The Kids," as if Capella is caring for her children.

For you non-early risers, there are a few things to attract our attention in the evening sky.

First, in the west about an hour after local sunset the planets Saturn and Mars are still making a nice showing although, both of them are growing slightly fainter as the days go by.

If you watch over the coming weeks, both will be dropping toward the horizon and Mars will be moving off, away from Saturn, in an easterly direction against the background stars.

The pair will be at their closest on the evening of Friday, Aug. 13. The bright star below Mars is the star Spica, which has been Saturn's faithful companion for the last few months. The three are lined up in an almost vertical line.

Things are getting exciting in the south, too as Scorpius takes center stage for the summer events. It is just past the meridian and is moving toward the west followed by the "teapot" shape of Sagittarius, the Archer. More about them later.

SKY WATCH: Third quarter moon Tuesday, July 10.

NEXT WEEK: Scorpius and Sagittarius and more astronomical blathering.

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Vernon Whetstone
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