Autumn Begins
Mark Alan Lovewell

Fall officially arrives on Sunday at 4:44 p.m. Daylight is becoming a precious commodity.

Already maple trees are changing their colors and Virginia creeper is turning brilliant red.

Stars overhead have changed significantly from summer. The Milky Way, a long ribbon of billions of stars, now rises in the northeast, moving high across our western sky and setting in the southwest.

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After Sunset
Mark Alan Lovewell

Our evening skies are filled with three celestial objects in the west this coming week: the Moon, Saturn and Venus. Every night is different.

A thin crescent moon will appear right next to the brilliant planet Venus on Sunday night, not long after sunset. It shouldn’t be missed, as the two are quite close. Both are in the zodiacal constellation Libra.

If you miss this opportunity, look again Monday night for the moon to appear higher in the west, and near the bright planet Saturn.

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Morning Moon and Planets
Mark Alan Lovewell

For those who rise early tomorrow morning there is a pretty scene over the eastern sky, an hour or more before sunrise. A thin crescent moon appears right next to the bright planet Jupiter. The two are in the zodiacal constellation Gemini.

On Sunday morning the moon is closer to the horizon and above the red planet Mars. On Monday morning the moon is a thinner crescent and underneath Mars. Both are in the zodiacal constellation Cancer.

Mars and Jupiter are distinctly different in brightness. Jupiter is the far brighter, while Mars is a dull red.

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Stars of Late Summer
Mark Alan Lovewell

Tonight’s gibbous moon appears in the zodiacal constellation Pisces. The moon spends the weekend moving through this large constellation, a constellation that depicts two fish swimming.

Pisces is a constellation we associate with late summer and fall. Early in the evening Pisces rises in the east. While it is one of the largest constellations in the zodiac, the stars that reside within it are not as bright or as distinguishable as other more popular constellations.

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Moon and the Tide
Mark Alan Lovewell

The moon appears low in the south in our evening skies this weekend. The gibbous moon spends the weekend going through the zodiacal constellation Sagittarius, the southern-most constellation in the zodiac. For those walking along the Island’s south shore, the moon will be an especially impressive sight, so close to the water and to the horizon.

The moon will appear higher in the coming week as it moves farther along the zodiac, passing into the constellation Capricornus. The moon will be full Tuesday through Wednesday. The August full moon is referred to as the Sailor’s Moon.

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Moon and Planets
Mark Alan Lovewell

A thin crescent moon appears under the bright planet Venus tonight. Take a look about a half hour after sunset. The two appear just above the glow of where the sun has set and it is a pretty scene.

More and more observers will see the crescent moon in the nights ahead when it is higher in the sky. The moon is to the left of Venus tomorrow night. Both are about the same height above the horizon.

The western sky gets prettier on Sunday night when the moon is even higher in the southwestern sky, but it is also close to the ringed-planet Saturn.

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Planets Morning and Night
Mark Alan Lovewell

In that critically short moment of dawn, an hour before sunrise, the planets Jupiter and Mars appear as a pair. They aren’t as close as they were a week ago, but still a sight. Jupiter is significantly brighter than Mars. If you can find Jupiter, you’ll see the red planet Mars under and to the left.

Then look below the two planets for a third, Mercury.

Mercury is hard to see. The planet is only a short distance above the horizon. Give yourself a tap on your shoulder if you see it.

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Extreme Tides
Mark Alan Lovewell

Tides will run higher and lower than normal this weekend and well into next week and it is tied mostly to two astronomical events. The moon is full on Monday, and it will be especially close, in perigee, on Sunday.

The gravitational pull of both the moon and sun create our tides. When the moon is particularly close, tidal pull is more extreme so tides run higher and lower than normal.

We had the same thing happen only a month ago, but slightly more extreme. Last month full moon and perigee were on the same day.

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Crescent Moon
Mark Alan Lovewell

The crescent moon hugs close to the southwestern sky tonight. The moon is in the zodiacal constellation Leo and will be entering into the zodiacal constellation Virgo tomorrow night.

On Monday, the moon is first quarter and appears near Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. On Tuesday night, the moon approaches the bright planet Saturn.

Saturn

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Moon, Venus and Menemsha
Mark Alan Lovewell

A thin crescent moon next to the bright planet Venus will appear above the horizon right after sunset on Wednesday. If the weather is fair, one of the best spots on the Vineyard will likely be Menemsha after the sunset.

Menemsha is the ideal spot to watch as it offers an unencumbered view of the western horizon. There are other places around the Vineyard, such as West Chop, Cape Pogue lighthouse and even the Gay Head light.    

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