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July 19, 2013

Two bright pairs of objects bracket the Sun the next few days like celestial bookends. One pair is quite low in the western sky as night falls, while the other is quite low in the eastern sky as day breaks.

The evening pair is the planet Venus and the star Regulus. Although they’re quite low in the sky as twilight begins to fade a bit, Venus is the brilliant “evening star,” so it really stands out. The star Regulus is close to its upper left this evening. It’s not nearly as bright as Venus, but its proximity to the planet will help you pick it out — and binoculars wouldn’t hurt, either.

Venus will move up over the top of Regulus over the next few evenings, so the two will stand even closer together than they are tonight. After that, Venus will pull away from the star as Regulus dives toward the Sun and disappears in the twilight.

The morning pairing involves two planets — Jupiter and Mars. Jupiter is by far the brighter of the two. In fact, in the night sky only Venus and the Moon outshine Jupiter, so it’s quite easy to see. Mars stands a little above it tomorrow. But Jupiter is climbing into the morning sky faster than Mars is, so it’ll sweep past Mars over the next few days. Both planets will continue to pull away from the Sun, but Jupiter will do so more quickly.

So take advantage of these prominent pairings as they bookend the sky over the next few days. And we’ll have more about these encounters over the weekend.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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