The night sky offers up a smorgasbord of treats this evening. They're all bright enough to see from just about anywhere -- even a light-polluted city.
As the last color of twilight fades away, look low in the west for the planets Mars and Saturn and the star Regulus. Mars and Saturn look like fairly bright stars, and they're so close together that they look like they could reach out and touch each other. Saturn is the brighter of the two, and a little higher in the sky. Mars will soon move past Saturn, but the planets will remain close together for a while longer. Regulus is to their lower right. They all set by around midnight.
Next, turn to the southwest and face the Moon. It's a day past first quarter, so sunlight illuminates a little more than half of the hemisphere that faces our way. Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, is not far to the Moon's right or upper right.
Finally, make a quarter turn to the left and look for the planet Jupiter climbing into view in the southeast. It looks like a brilliant cream-colored star. You can't miss it because it far outshines anything else in tonight's sky except the Moon. In fact, Jupiter's at its brightest for the entire year.
Jupiter is near the handle of the teapot-shaped constellation Sagittarius, one of the signature star patterns of summer. They'll skitter low across the south during the night, with Jupiter still in view in the southwest at first light.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.