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Moon and Companions

June 17, 2016

The Moon and some bright companions put on a beautiful show this evening. They’re in the south-southeast at nightfall, and set in the wee hours of the morning.

The brighest of the three companions is orange Mars, which is to the right or lower right of the Moon as darkness falls. The little planet was at its brightest just a few weeks ago, as Earth passed by it. But as we pull away, it’s beginning to fade. Even so, it’s still the third-brightest object in the night sky right now, after the Moon and the planet Jupiter.

Another planet is farther to the lower left of the Moon: Saturn, the second-largest planet in the solar system. It was at its best a couple of weeks ago. And like Mars, it’s beginning to lose a bit of its luster. But it won’t fade as quickly or as dramatically as Mars, so you won’t see much of a difference from week to week or even month to month.

The Moon’s final companion is Antares, the leading light of Scorpius. It’s farthest from the Moon, standing almost directly below it at nightfall.

Of the three companions, Antares is the only true star. And it’s one of the most impressive stars in the entire galaxy. It’s many times bigger and heavier than the Sun, and tens of thousands of times brighter. It looks fainter than the two planets only because it’s millions of times farther away — a blazing star that’s hundreds of light-years from Earth.

We’ll have more about the Moon and its bright companions tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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