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Morning Lineup

February 9, 2018

The pre-dawn sky offers a beautiful start to the weekend tomorrow: a lineup that features the crescent Moon plus three bright planets and one bright star. It stretches across the southeastern quadrant of the sky at first light.

The lowest member of the lineup is Saturn, the second-largest planet in the solar system. It stands to the lower left of the Moon, and looks like a bright golden star. The Moon will slide toward Saturn over the following 24 hours, so the two worlds will stand quite close together on Sunday morning; we’ll have more about that tomorrow.

Two other bright dots stand about the same distance to the right and upper right of the Moon. The one on top is Mars, while the other is Antares, the leading star of the scorpion.

Mars and Antares are just about the same brightness right now. That’ll change rapidly in the months ahead, though. We’re moving closer to Mars, so it’s getting brighter in a hurry. At its peak, in July, it’ll be 40 times brighter than it is now.

By then, it’ll outshine the final member of tomorrow’s lineup: Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet — a monster that’s big enough to hold more than 1300 Earths. It’s to the upper right of Mars and Antares, and outshines everything else except the Moon, so you can’t miss it. And it, too, is getting brighter. It’ll reach its peak in early May — shining almost twice as bright as it will tomorrow, when it forms the top end of a beautiful morning lineup.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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