Morning Planets

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Morning Planets
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Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter form a tight triangle in the dawn sky for the next few days. Unfortunately, they’re quite low, so they’re tough to see. The view is better as you go farther south.

The planets are in the east-southeast as the sky brightens. Mercury and Saturn stand highest. They’re almost side by side, with Mercury on the left. Jupiter is below them, and is brighter than its two siblings.

Mercury is the Sun’s closest and smallest planet. It’s a bare ball of rock and metal that’s about half again as big as the Moon. Jupiter and Saturn are the largest planets — giant balls of gas wrapped around heavy cores. They’re hundreds of millions of miles from the Sun.

Mercury is barely peeking into the dawn sky. Soon, it’ll drop back toward the Sun. It’ll leave Saturn behind, then pass by Jupiter. Not long after that, it’ll disappear in the solar glare. But Saturn and Jupiter are climbing away from the Sun. They’ll rise earlier and stand farther from the Sun each day.

Unfortunately, the trail the planets follow is tilted at a low angle, so the planets move low along the horizon as they climb into view. From high latitudes, in fact, all three planets will be immersed in the glare of twilight, so they’ll be quite hard to see. The angle is better from southerly latitudes — especially Hawaii and southern Florida and Texas. But even there, you’ll need a clear horizon to see this tight trio in the dawn sky.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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