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Night Sky News: Moon Joins Bright Stars and Planets

July 25 predawn Moon points to stunning star cluster in the eastern sky. Credit: Starry Night Software

For early bird skywatchers willing to look up before dawn the next few days, the Moon will be putting on a great show.  On Saturday, July 23, about an hour before your local dawn face east to find the Quarter Moon. Joining our celestial neighbor will be what looks like a creamy colored, bright star which is in fact planet Jupiter – sitting about 700 million km from Earth. If you get clouded out try again on Sunday morning. The Moon still be hanging around the gas giant but will have moved on its other side.

Then on Monday, July 25 look for the crescent Moon positioning itself next to a beautiful stellar showpiece. Known as the Pleiades star cluster or M45, this gang of seven naked eye stars – dozens are visible through a small telescope – is one of the closest and brightest star groups located some 400 light years away, making it a favourite of backyard stargazers. You may find the nearby Moon’s glare a little too overwhelming so try using binoculars to bring out the cluster.  you will also find a bright orange star underneath this cosmic pair – that is 65 light year distant Aldebaran, the lead member of the constellation Taurus, the bull.

Moon meets Mars in the predawn sky

Finally on July 26 watch the thinning crescent Moon glide closer to a faint ruddy star that is the planet Mars, low to the eastern horizon. On July 27 the moon and the Red Planet will be at their closest in the predawn sky, separated by about only 0.5 degrees – that’s equal to one full moon disk – making it a particularly pretty pairing. Remember that their proximity is just an optical illusion because while  our Moon is about 400,000 km from us, Mars is nearly 300 million km distant!

Its’ amazing to think that the orange glow you see coming from Mars is actually due to the sunlight reflecting off all that iron-oxide rich desert sand and dust covering its surface.

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.

 

 

Comments

  1. [...] Close encounters of three bright planets are considered fairly rare—occurring every few years. The next triple conjunction is scheduled for October 2015. But the wait will be longer for one this tight—the next one will occur in 2026. (Read about the moon and stars forming their own celestial cluster.) [...]

  2. karin
    jax fl
    August 30, 2011, 6:06 am

    I am looking at the horizon .It is 6 am aug.30 2011.Am I looking at Jupiter or mercury . It is bright and doe not a have any color than bright to the naked eye.

  3. matty
    Trimdon. County Durham
    July 27, 2011, 8:49 pm

    I can see Jupiter right now frmo my loft window. Me and a friend of mine first noticed this unusually bright star in the eastern sky about 2 weeka ago and have been wondering what it was ever since now we know its Jupiter.

  4. Sil in Corea
    July 23, 2011, 12:55 am

    I’ll be looking. Thanks for the information.