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View all the naked eye planets at dawn January 20, 2016

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
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The return of Mercury to the morning skies means all the naked eye planets are visible at dawn now. We have a couple weeks’ worth of great morning observing coming up, which might make you glad for late sunrises.

Start with January 24th. At 7 AM, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and the Moon spread out across the entire sky.


The sky at 7 AM on January 24

The 25th marks the day of least span. From Mercury to Jupiter will cover only 112º 3′ that day, or about 2/3 of the sky from southeast to southwest.

By the 28th, the planets will have spread out to 112º 40’ (not a noticeable change to most of us), but the Moon will be inside that span. It’ll be right next to bright Jupiter, so if you like taking pictures, it’s a good opportunity.


The sky at 7 AM on January 28. Jupiter and the Moon make a good pair.

The Moon tends to overwhelm the other planets, but if you like conjunctions, look for the Moon and:  Spica on the 30th; Mars on February 1; Saturn on the 3rd; and Venus and Mercury on the 6th.

If your goal is a glimpse of illusive Mercury, take your binoculars out on February 4th, when Mercury is more than 5 1/2° above the southeast horizon at 7 AM. That’s about the same as holding 3 fingers at arm’s length, so a clear horizon is a must.  It’ll be up 10° by 7:30, but by then it will also be very bright out. 


Mercury is farthest from the horizon at 7 AM on February 4th.

On February 6, head out with the binoculars again and use Venus to find Mercury and an old crescent Moon. 


Bright Venus can guide you to an old Moon and Mercury on Feb. 6th.

Mercury, the fleet footed messenger, and Venus, goddess of love, will be at their closest on February 14, just in time for Valentine’s Day. May he speed your messages to the one you love.



How the sky would look if the planets were as close as the moon [8 pictures] – 22 Words April 10, 2013

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Science.
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How the sky would look if the planets were as close as the moon [8 pictures] – 22 Words.

This is a nice way to put the planets (and in some ways, the distance to the Moon) in perspective.

The Night After Christmas Sky Show – NASA Science December 23, 2011

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro.
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The Night After Christmas Sky Show – NASA Science.

If the kids get you up too early on Christmas morn, you can try taking a look for Comet Lovejoy. It’s headed south though, so if you’re as far north as I am, it’ll be a tough catch. Maybe I’ll get a glimpse of the tail…

If you happen to be in the southern hemisphere however, you can’t miss the comet. Really. You need to set an alarm for an hour before sunrise and get out there. It’s spectacular. Check out the pictures on http://spaceweather.com/.

Slightly easier is Mercury, 10 degrees up and almost due southeast at 7:30 AM on Sunday here in Michigan.Southern observers should look for it to the east of comet Lovejoy.

Everyone gets a treat Christmas night. Jupiter, Venus and a young moon will gather in the western sky after sunset. Take that new pair of binoculars out and have a look, because you’ll be able to see those three object no matter how bad the light pollution is. They’re an easy target for beginners too, and the Earth-shine gives a nice bit of detail to the Moon without being blinding.