Moon and Planets
If you happen to be up and about at the crack of dawn tomorrow, then you might want to take a glance at the eastern horizon. The three brightest objects in the night sky are congregating within a few degrees of each other — the Moon and the planets Venus and Jupiter. They’re quite low in the sky at first light, and fade from view as the growing twilight banishes the darkness.
Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, is close to the upper left of the crescent Moon. Brighter Venus, our nearest planetary neighbor, is a little farther to the lower left. Both planets outshine all the other planets and stars in the night sky, so there’s never any trouble spotting them.
Venus is dropping toward the Sun right now, and will disappear in the Sun’s glare in a few weeks. Jupiter, on the other hand, is pulling away from the Sun, climbing a little higher into the sky each morning.
Over the months, it will begin rising before midnight, then in early evening, and then it’ll already be in the sky by the time night falls. Jupiter will finally vanish from view around the first of next August as it begins to pass behind the Sun. The giant planet will return to view in September, as it begins another year-long sojourn across the night sky.
For now, enjoy Jupiter and its companions at first light. Venus and Jupiter will remain fairly close together for a few days more as they inexorably head in opposite directions across the sky.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2014
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.