In evening dusk about 8 p.m., five planets grace the evening sky. Mercury glistens near the western horizon and sets about 8:30 p.m. Westbound silver Saturn encircled in icy rings, drifts across the southwest in Libra and sets about 10:30 p.m.
Eastbound Mars fades 135 million miles from Earth ahead of huge Scorpius in the south. Bright Antares, red supergiant, is the heart beating in the Scorpion’s torso. Antares was known as the Fire Star in ancient China. Sparkling 400 light years from Earth, Antares is about 700 times larger than our sun and a pulsating variable star with a tiny green companion star that takes 1,000 years to orbit Antares.
Blue-green Uranus floats in Pisces, the Fish, rising in the southeast. Dim blue Neptune sails high across the southeast in Aquarius. Fomalhaut twinkles below Neptune.
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The Sagittarian Teapot closely follows Scorpius across the south. The stellar teaspoon glistens upper left of the Teapot’s handle. Grus, the Crane, stretches its starry neck above the southeastern horizon. Aim binoculars to the south to view a myriad of celestial objects (nebulas, galaxies, clusters) shimmering in outer space. Capricornus, the Sea Goat, plods toward the south. On the eastern horizon Aries, the Ram, watches Pegasus, the Winged Horse, lift higher in the east. Westbound Hercules leads Vega, in Lyra the Harp, and the immense Summer Triangle overhead. Cygnus, the Swan, soars within the Triangle. The Royal Family settles in the northeast. Bright Arcturus, Herdsman, sparkles in the west. The Big Dipper swings into the northwest.
Last Quarter Moon occurs 10:05 p.m.
By nightfall Mars leads Scorpius by the nose into the southwest. The star delta scorpii is a variable star that fluctuates in brightness in the Scorpion’s head, 1degree from Mars.
At dusk, aim binoculars to Mercury near the western horizon and 2degrees from Spica, both in Virgo.
By 5 a.m., bright Jupiter rises in the east. About 6a.m. brilliant Venus, the Morning Star, descends to the eastern horizon beside Leo, the Lion.
Focus binoculars on the waning moon 6degrees to the right of the dim Beehive cluster in Cancer, the Crab. The Gemini Twins drift high in the northeast. Capella guides Auriga, the Charioteer, toward the north. The Royal Family reigns in the north. Westbound delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades cluster) lead Taurus, the Bull, overhead. Aldebaran (Bull’s red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face). Gigantic Orion, the Hunter, strides higher in the east followed by Procyon, Little Dog. Brilliant blue Sirius, a nearby star, sparkles in Orion’s Big Dog in the southeast.
Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org