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Weekend Goodies

September 25, 2015

This is quite a weekend for stargazing. The two brightest pinpoints of light in the night sky congregate in the east before dawn, sandwiching a couple of fainter lights between them. And there’s a total eclipse on Sunday night — an eclipse of the Harvest Moon.

A couple of hours before sunrise, look for Venus, the dazzling “morning star,” almost due east. It far outshines everything else in the night sky at that hour, so you just can’t miss it.

About the only thing that even comes close to Venus in brightness is Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet. It’s quite low in the sky at that hour, well to the lower left of Venus, so you need a clear horizon to spot it.

And about half-way between Venus and Jupiter, look for the fainter lights Mars and Regulus, huddling quite close together. Regulus stands to the upper right of orange Mars.

And on Sunday night, look for the full Moon. As the full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox, it’s known as the Harvest Moon — a title it’s held for many centuries.

It’ll be especially close to Earth, so it’ll shine a bit brighter than average — but not for all of the night. That’s because the Moon will pass through Earth’s shadow for part of the time, creating a total lunar eclipse. Most of the United States will see all of the total phase of the eclipse, and a good bit of the country will see all of the partial eclipse as well — a beautiful way to end a beautiful weekend of skywatching.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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