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This Week's Planet Roundup
6 years ago
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Mercury is hidden in the glare of the Sun.

Venus (magnitude –4.3, in Cancer) rises in darkness around 3 a.m. daylight saving time (depending on where you live), emerging above the east-northeast horizon a good two hours before the first glimmer of dawn. By early dawn it's blazing high in the east.

Binoculars show the Beehive star cluster 6° to Venus's lower left on the morning of the 8th, closing to less than 3° to Venus's left by the 12th and 13th.

Mars and Saturn (magnitudes +1.2 and +0.8) are low in the southwest and west-southwest, respectively, as evening twilight fades. This week they widen from 13° to 17° apart. Look for them well to the lower left of brighter Arcturus in the west. Can you still find Spica twinkling under Saturn? Mars ends the week just 1° below Alpha Librae, a wide binocular double star.

Jupiter on Aug. 23, 2012
The side of Jupiter away from the Great Red Spot on August 23rd. South is up. The huge, reddish northern-hemisphere belt is resolving itself back into the North Equatorial Belt (NE and, below it here, the North Temperate Belt (NT, with the light North Tropical Zone re-emerging between them. Notice the thin, unusual Equatorial Band in the middle of the bright Equatorial Zone.

John H. Rogers, the British Astronomical Association's Jupiter Section director, says the recent regrowth of the NEB is its first "full-scale revival" since 1926, "and the NTB is reviving via a super-fast jet-stream outbreak as last seen in 2007. Sectors of the belts and the intervening NTropZ which were still light in June have now filled in with intense turbulence and reddish (ochre) colour, producing one vast brown-and-ochre belt from the NEBs to the NTB."

Jupiter (magnitude –2.4, in Taurus) rises in the east-northeast around 11 or midnight daylight saving time. Once it's well clear of the horizon, look for fainter orange Aldebaran twinkling 7° to its right, and Beta Tauri a bit farther to Jupiter's left. By dawn this line of three stands very high in the south.

Uranus (magnitude 5.7, at the Pisces-Cetus border) and Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in Aquarius) reach good heights in the southeast by mid-evening. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.


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