The Moon slips near three planets and several bright stars in the dawn sky in early August. This view is about 45 minutes before sunrise. [Damond Benningfield]
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Moon and Planets
The crescent Moon runs a gauntlet in the early morning sky the next few days, sliding down past the planets Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury. And the “twins” of Gemini are close by, too. In fact, almost the entire sequence will take place inside Gemini’s borders.
At first light tomorrow, Jupiter stands close to the Moon’s left or lower left. The giant planet outshines all the other planets and stars in the sky at that hour, so you can’t miss it. Jupiter is near the feet of one of Gemini’s twins, with the Moon barely outside the constellation’s borders, in the adjoining constellation Orion.
Mars is to the lower left of Jupiter. Mars is only a few percent as bright as its bigger sibling, but its distinctly orange color will help you pick it out. And Mercury is a little farther to the lower left of Mars. It’s quite low in the sky at that hour, so any trees or buildings along the horizon will block it from view. But it’s also quite bright, so as long as you have a clear view of that part of the sky you should be able to find it.
And Gemini’s namesake stars — the “twins” Castor and Pollux — stand to the left of the lineup of planets, with Castor a little higher in the sky.
The Moon will slide down toward the center of the constellation by Sunday morning, close to Mars. And on Monday, it’ll be close to Mercury — ready to leave Gemini and its visiting planets behind.
We’ll have more about this beautiful lineup tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013