As summer begins to draw to a close and we head toward the fall equinox, sunrise comes along a little later each day. That means you don't have to get up quite so early to enjoy the beauty of the eastern pre-dawn sky.
And a beautiful sight it is. Right now, it's highlighted by Venus, the "morning star." It's well up in the east at the first peek of dawn's early light. Nothing else rivals the planet's brilliance, so you just can't miss it.
The true star Procyon is off to the right of Venus. It's one of the brightest stars in the night sky. Its name means "before the dog." It means that for most of the United States, it rises a bit earlier than the Dog Star, Sirius, which is well to the lower right of Procyon at first light.
The twins of Gemini stand above Venus and a little to its left. Slightly brighter Pollux is closer to the Moon, with Castor above it.
And the planet Mars is well to the upper right of Venus. It's growing a little bit brighter every day as it heads toward a good showing at the end of the year. It shines with a steady orange color, which will help you pick it out.
And over to the right of Mars is another orange bauble: Betelgeuse, the brightest star of Orion, the hunter. The rest of the constellation stretches to its right.
Venus is slowly moving back toward the Sun. But the rest of this beautiful array is climbing away from the Sun, and will dominate the evening sky this winter.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.