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Last Week's Stargazing Tips

March 8: Moon and Saturn

Saturn is close to the Moon at dawn tomorrow. The giant planet looks like a star to the left of the Moon. The planets Jupiter, which is much brighter than Saturn, and Mercury stand to the lower left.

March 7: Denebola

Denebola, the star that marks the lion’s tail, is bigger, brighter, and much younger than the Sun. It perches low in the east as darkness falls and climbs high across the sky during the night. It will rise a little earlier each evening as we head into spring.

March 6: Mystery Explosion

Vulpecula, the fox, is near the middle of the Summer Triangle, which is high in the eastern sky at dawn. One of its treasures is CK Vulpecula, a star that flared up 350 years ago. The outburst probably was caused by the collision and merger of two stars.

March 5: Last-Quarter Moon

The Moon reaches last quarter at 7:30 p.m. CST, so sunlight will illuminate half of the visible lunar hemisphere. The illuminated fraction will shrink over the coming week as the Moon moves toward “new,” which will begin a new cycle of phases.

March 4: More Mercury and Jupiter

The planets Mercury and Jupiter will stand side by side at dawn tomorrow. Jupiter is the brighter of the two worlds. They will be slightly easier to see from more southerly latitudes. Saturn stands to their upper right.

March 3: The Whirlpool

M51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy for its nearly perfect spiral arms, spins across the north tonight. It stands close to the end of the handle of the Big Dipper, which is in the northeast in early evening and wheels high overhead later on.

March 2: Mercury and Jupiter

The planets Mercury and Jupiter stand low in the east-southeast in the dawn twilight. Tomorrow, Mercury will stand close above brighter Jupiter. The planets will appear to almost touch on Friday, and Mercury will move away from Jupiter after that.