Dance of Two Planets

Venus has staged a comeback. The brightest planet in our night skies appears low in the southwestern sky, close to the horizon, just after sunset. Last year Venus was mostly a morning planet.

Jupiter is higher in the western sky, visible at twilight and easier to see. But soon the two planets will change places.

In the weeks ahead Jupiter and Venus will appear closer together in the western sky. By the end of May they will be side by side. Since they are the brightest visible planets, the changing positions will be hard to miss.

Moon and Saturn

The Moon and Saturn appear as a pair low in the eastern sky after sunset tonight. The two are in the zodiacal constellation Libra. The moon is one day past full moon and only slightly dimmer than it was last night.
   
This weekend, the moon passes through the zodiacal constellation Scorpius, a constellation we most often associate with summer. If you are up late tonight, around midnight, the constellations you mostly see are our summer constellations.

Missing Planets

The planets Venus and Mars, once the brightest planets in our night sky, have disappeared from view. They are still out there, but they are appearing so close to the Sun as to be hidden from us.

Looking ahead, both will reappear in our sky but at opposite ends of the night.

Venus is speeding around the Sun and will soon appear low in our western sky. The earliest you may be able to see Venus will be in May and it will be an evening planet. Venus spent last winter as our morning planet.

Winter Constellations Slip Away

The ringed-planet Saturn rises late in the evening.  On Sunday night, the planet is accompanied by the gibbous moon. Both rise in the east at about 11 p.m., and are in the zodiacal constellation Libra.

Early Tuesday morning, two days later, the last quarter moon appears low in the southeastern sky. The moon rises after midnight and is in the zodiacal constellation Scorpius, a constellation we more often associate with summer.

Spring is Coming

Crescent Moon

The moon returns to our evening skies in the coming week. Only a few Vineyarders will see it hovering close to the western horizon right after sunset on Monday night.

Planets Mercury and Mars are nearby and they look like “stars.” Mercury is the brighter of the two and right under the moon. Mars is even closer to the horizon and a significant challenge to spot. All three are in between the two zodiacal constellation Pisces and Aquarius.

More Vineyarders will see the crescent moon on Tuesday night when it is considerably higher above the horizon and above Mars and Mercury.

Planets

Late tonight, before midnight, the gibbous moon rises in the east. The moon is in the zodiacal constellation Virgo, a constellation we more often associate with spring and summer. That bright star near the moon is Spica. Spica is the main star in that constellation and it is one of the brightest in that area of the sky. Wait a little later and an even brighter celestial object appears above the horizon. It is the bright planet Saturn.

Nighttime Stories

In the earliest years of astronomy, no one had a clear understanding of the magic of the stars in the skies. Twinkling stars were untouchable, yet they glowed every night. Naming the constellations after mythological creatures probably came out of an effort to both understand and remember.

Planets

Sunrise Sunset

Fri., August 24 5:58 7:28

Sat., August 25 5:59 7:26

Sun., August 26 6:00 7:25

Mon., August 27 6:01 7:23

Tues., August 28 6:02 7:22

Wed., August 29 6:03 7:20

Thurs., August 30 6:05 7:18

Fri., August 31 6:06 7:17

Planets

Planets

Welcome to the skies of September. Our nights begin with two viewable planets. Night ends with two planets to view. Mars and Saturn are low in the southwestern sky after sunset, with Saturn being closer to the horizon. Mars, the red planet, has moved away from Saturn and appears slightly higher and more southerly in the sky. Saturn resides in the zodiacal constellation Virgo. In just the last several weeks, Mars has moved from Virgo into the zodiacal constellation Libra.

Evening Planets

A thin crescent moon will appear low in the southwestern sky on Monday night. The moon is three days old; only those with an unobstructed view of the southwest will see it soon after sunset.

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