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Bright Pairs

December 2, 2017

Two pairs of bright objects highlight the sky at first light tomorrow. One pair is low in the west, while the other is a bit higher in the southeast. The one in the west is the most prominent one, though, because it includes the full Moon.

Actually, the Moon and its companion will be in view all night. They’ll be low in the east at nightfall, with the star Aldebaran to the lower left of the Moon. As the night progresses, though, the Moon will slide eastward against the background of stars, so it’ll move closer to Aldebaran, the ruddy eye of the bull.

For most of the United States, Aldebaran will stand above the Moon at first light. For those in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, though, the two will get even closer about that time: The Moon will pass in front of Aldebaran, blocking it from view. The star will remain hidden for about 35 minutes for skywatchers in Seattle, and almost an hour for those in Anchorage.

By dawn, the second pair will have climbed into good view as well: the planet Mars and the star Spica. They’ll stand side by side, with Mars on the left and brighter Spica on the right. Mars looks orange, while contrasting Spica will look white or blue-white.

Over the next few weeks, Mars will stand at just about the same altitude at the same hour of each day. Spica, on the other hand, will be a little higher in the sky each day. So Spica will quickly pull away from Mars, splitting up this bright pairing in tomorrow’s morning sky.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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