The Moon slides between two planets the next few nights -- Mars and Saturn. Tonight, Mars is to the upper right of the Moon at nightfall. It looks like a bright orange star. Golden Saturn is a good bit to the lower left of the Moon.
You can get closer looks at Mars and Saturn on the World Wide Web -- not just archives from past missions, but what these worlds look like today. That's because two NASA projects post every single picture on the web. They're usually available the same day they're snapped, often within just hours.
The Mars Exploration Rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity -- have been studying Mars for more than six years. And the Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn for more than five years. It beams back scores of pictures every day -- of Saturn, its rings, and its moons.
All of these are "raw" pictures -- just as they're transmitted from space -- so they're all in black and white. The pictures are snapped through different filters, and each filter provides different information. In Cassini's case, the filters provide views at different depths in Saturn's atmosphere, or reveal the presence of different chemical elements.
Piecing the images together provides the beautiful views found on magazine covers. But the raw images let you see these worlds not as they looked months or years ago, but as they look right now.
You can find the Mars pictures at mars.jpl.nasa.gov, and the Saturn pictures at saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.