Morning Planets

StarDate: January 17, 2014

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The planet Venus is beginning a long run as the “morning star.” The curtain won’t come down on its performance until autumn. And for now, it’s joined on the early morning stage by two other planets.

Venus is just moving into the morning sky after crossing between Earth and the Sun a few days ago. The planet is closest to Earth right now — a cozy 25 million miles away — so it moves across the sky in a hurry. That swift motion has carried it far enough away from the Sun for it to just climb into view, quite low in the east-southeast about 45 minutes before sunrise. It’s rising a few minutes earlier each day, offering more time to enjoy its beauty before it’s overpowered by the rising Sun.

Its two companions on the early morning stage are Saturn and Mars. Mars rises first, and is in good view in the east by around 1 a.m. It’s hard to miss because it’s quite bright, shining with a bold orange glow. And it’s getting brighter each day. It’ll shine at its best in early April, when it’s closest to Earth for the year.

Saturn follows Mars into view by about 3:30 or 4. It’s the same brightness as Mars, but it shines pale gold instead of orange. It won’t brighten as quickly or dramatically as Mars will, though, because it’s much farther away.

For now, look for the “morning star” in the glow of early dawn, with Saturn well to its upper right and Mars farther along the same line — a beautiful cosmic performance that doesn’t cost a thing.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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

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