The moon meets the planets

The sharp sun rays reflected from planet Mars and the eclipsed Moon in July 2018 make a red pair in Melbourne’s western sky. (Wikimedia Commons/cafuego)

Unlike this spring and most of the summer, all four of the classic bright planets are now hovering close to their maximum possible brilliance. But just to make things unnecessarily easy, the moon is about to highlight each one by hovering alongside it. The show is cool, it’s free, and it’s easy, so make these notations on your calendar:

• All night long, the gibbous moon floats alongside Jupiter and Saturn this Friday, September 25.  Jupiter is super-brilliant while Saturn, closest to the moon that night, is merely bright. Steadily-braced binoculars will show Jupiter’s four large moons, while any telescope with more than 30 times magnification will reveal Saturn’s gorgeous rings.

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• The nearly full moon will sit extremely close to brilliant orange Mars on October 2. That week, Mars will be brighter and closer than it will again appear until 2035. Already it’s eye-catching, as that brilliant orange “star” pops up in the east starting around 9 p.m. and remains out the rest of the night.

• The waning crescent moon will float next to dazzling Venus, the Morning Star, on October 13 and again during those first early hours of the 14th. Look lowish in the east just before dawn to see these two most brilliant objects of the night sky.

This is safe Covid activity. and it’s free. You already live up here where the skies are gorgeous. Why not take a few minutes to gaze at these solar system bodies that have enthralled sky-watchers since the earliest Neanderthals gazed upward?

It’s fun astronomy, and you don’t need any charts or sky-knowledge.

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