Mark Alan Lovewell

Mars and Moon

On Monday night the gibbous moon appears close to the red planet Mars. Both are in the zodiacal constellation Taurus. For those who have watched Mars, the planet has clearly lost its brilliance of a month ago. When Mars was in opposition in early December, it was the brightest it has been in many years. Mars is now farther from us and thus not as bright. Astronomers estimate the planet is 81 million miles away, almost twice as far away as it was two months ago. Our Earth is moving rapidly away from Mars By the end of February Mars will be 102 million miles away.

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Saturn and Venus

The planets Saturn and Venus will be so close together Sunday night, you may miss it. The planets will be only a half degree apart, so close that the sight requires special attention.

Both planets are low in the southwestern sky right after sunset. The two will be amid the glow of twilight. As the night darkens, Venus will continue to brighten, looking almost like an airplane coming in with landing lights on. Take a more careful look at Venus for Saturn.

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Venus and Saturn

There is a beautiful planetary lineup happening in the nights ahead. The brilliant planet Venus is getting closer to the ringed-planet Saturn. You can see the two early in the evening. The two are setting, following the sun, in the western sky. Every night ahead, the two get closer.

Venus and Saturn will be less than a degree apart on Sunday, January 22. But don't wait until then.

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Full Moon in Gemini

Tonight's full moon, the Ice Moon, appears in the zodiacal constellation Gemini. Take a look and you'll see the moon in close proximity to the two brightest stars in the constellation Pollux and Castor. Pollux is the brighter of the two and the brightest star in the constellation. The moon forms a nice triangle with the two.

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New Year Skies

The evening skies in the New Year will be filled with planets. Every visible planet, but Mercury, are appearing in our night sky. It is a parade across the evening sky, starting with Mars to the East. Next there is Jupiter and Saturn. Saturn is really close to Venus low in the southwestern sky after sunset.

Saturn and Venus are only visible for a short time before, together the two descend into the twilight.

Mars will be visited by a bright gibbous moon on Tuesday night. Or, you can look Monday night for them fairly close. They are in the zodiacal constellation Taurus.

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Christmas Stars

If you are looking for a Christmas star, you will not be disappointed. There are at least two planets low in the western sky this coming week, masquerading as stars. The brightest Venus is underneath the planet Mercury. They set early in the evening, set in the twilight.

The two planets are tough to spot so timing and a clear western horizon are essential.

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Winter Arrives

Winter arrives on Wednesday at 4:48 p.m. There is not a day in the year here with less sunlight. The weather in the last two months has certainly pointed us to this day. The temperatures is already seasonally colder than we are used to in recent years. And we've already seen snow.

Take a step outside tonight to enjoy this astronomical event, as well as a likely meteorological night.

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Geminid Meteor Shower

The year's best meteor shower takes place Tuesday night. The Geminid meteor shower is the most productive. You'll see far more meteors than the most popular meteor shower, the Perseid Meteor Shower. The best time this year will be before 10 p.m., when the waning gibbous moon rises in the east. It is a bright moon so it is very likely you'll miss a good part of the show later in the evening.

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Mars Occultation and Full Moon

On Wednesday night the brilliant full moon appears right next to the bright planet Mars. The two are so close you may have trouble seeing Mars.

At 11:08 p.m. that evening Mars gets within one degree of the moon. Through a telescope, the sight is easier. The moon appears to skim along side of Mars without covering it.

However, in other parts of the country and world, the moon will overlap the distant planet. Mars will appear to be extinguished.

No matter the time you look Wednesday night, you've got a sight to see.

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Crescent Moon and Saturn

The ringed-planet Saturn appears low in the southwestern sky after sunset. The planet once commanded much of the attention during summer, appearing in the southern sky. With the advancement of the seasons Saturn's time in our sky is significantly shortened. Now the planet hangs in our evening sky for an hour or so. Saturn is being upstaged by the prominence of Jupiter farther to the east. Jupiter is the brighter. And the red planet Mars now appears above the horizon a short time afterwards.

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