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Moon and Companions

July 18, 2015

The three brightest objects in the night sky congregate in the west after the Sun sets this evening — the Moon and the planets Venus and Jupiter. They don’t hang around for long, though. They all set by a couple of hours after sunset.

Venus stands close to the upper right of the Moon. The brilliant planet has been shining as the “evening star” all year long. But that reign is about to end. Venus is dropping toward the Sun in our sky, and it’ll cross between Earth and the Sun in just four weeks. When it does so, it’ll move into the morning sky, beginning a long run as the “morning star.”

Jupiter stands a little farther from the Moon. It’s dropping toward the Sun as well. But while Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth is, giant Jupiter orbits far outside the orbit of Earth. So instead of crossing between Earth and the Sun, it’ll pass behind the Sun.

After that, Jupiter will move into the morning sky as well. But because Jupiter is so much farther away than Venus is, that transition will take longer, so the planet will linger near the Sun for a bit longer than Venus will. But both worlds will be in great view in the dawn sky in the middle of September, and will remain in the morning sky for the rest of the year.

For now, though, look for these two sparkling planets low in the west as twilight drains from the evening sky, flanking the beautiful crescent Moon.

Tomorrow: feeling the scorpion’s potent stinger.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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