Moon, Venus, and Saturn

StarDate: October 15, 2009

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Three planets congregate near the crescent Moon as dawn begins to color the eastern sky tomorrow: Venus, Saturn, and Mercury. The first two are fairly easy to find, but you need some help with the third.

Venus is no challenge at all. It's the brilliant "morning star" a little to the upper left of the Moon. It far outshines everything else in the night sky except the Moon. It's quite low in the sky, though, so you need a clear horizon to find it.

Saturn is above Venus. It's only one percent as bright as Venus, so it's a little harder to pick out from the field of stars around it. But it still outshines most of the true stars. And over the next few months, it'll get brighter as it climbs higher into the sky each day.

The one that's really tough to find is Mercury. It's to the lower left of the other three, so it's much lower in the sky.

In fact, Mercury is almost always tough to find. It's the closest planet to the Sun, so it never strays far from the Sun in our sky. It's seldom visible for more than a few minutes before sunrise or after sunset.

By the time Mercury climbs clear of the clutter at the horizon tomorrow, the sky will be pretty bright. But binoculars can help you pluck it from dawn's glow. And if you need a little extra help, we have a chart on our website -- stardate.org.

So enjoy the view of these three worlds huddling close to the crescent Moon in tomorrow's early morning sky.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

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

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