Morning Lineup

StarDate: April 30, 2009

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Five of the seven other planets of our solar system congregate in the east and southeast at first light for the next few weeks. Two of them are quite bright, so you won't have any trouble finding them. And they can help point the way to the others.

The brightest of the bunch is Venus, the "morning star." It's quite low in the east at first light. But it's the brightest object in the night sky other than the Moon, so as long as you have a clear horizon, you just can't miss it.

Down below Venus, look for Mars. It's less than one percent as bright as Venus, but there are no other bright stars nearby to compete with it. It should remain visible as the first color of twilight begins to paint the sky, giving you a few extra minutes to look for it as it climbs a bit higher.

The giant planet Uranus is to the upper right of Venus. It's so faint that you need binoculars to pick it out.

You won't need binoculars to find Jupiter, which is well up in the southeast. It outshines everything else except the Moon and Venus, so it's easy to spot.

And the fifth planet is just a little to the left of Jupiter. Like Uranus, Neptune is a planetary giant. But it's about 2.8 billion miles away, so it's quite faint. Binoculars won't help much -- you need a small telescope to find this far-away giant.

Sixty years ago, an astronomer who was studying Neptune with a large telescope discovered one of the planet's moons. We'll have more about that tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

The one constant in the Universe: StarDate magazine

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