Like glittering beads on a celestial necklace, three planets line up across the sky at first light right now. And for the next few days, the crescent Moon will join them.
As twilight begins to color the east, look for the brightest planetary bead quite low in the sky. That’s the planet Venus, known for the next few months as the “morning star.” It far outshines all the other planets and stars in the sky, so you can’t miss it — although you might mistake it for an approaching airplane. But if you keep an eye on it for a little while, you’ll see that it doesn’t move compared to the other stars and planets.
The crescent Moon is to the upper right of Venus tomorrow, but will slide closer to it on Tuesday; we’ll have more about that tomorrow.
The next planet is about the same distance to the upper right of the Moon as the Moon is from Venus. That’s Saturn, the second-largest planet in the solar system. It shines with a slightly golden hue — the subtle color of the clouds that top its atmosphere.
And the final planet in the morning necklace is bright orange Mars. It’s to the upper right of Saturn, about the same distance as Saturn is from the Moon. Mars will grow brighter in a hurry over the next couple of months as Earth catches up to it on our inside track around the Sun. At its peak, in early April, it’ll shine about six times brighter than it does now — adding more glitter to the necklace of planets across the sky.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.