Two Planets, the Moon and a Bright Star

Richard

I’m an early riser these days. Didn’t used to be. There was a time when I would routinely stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning. Now, I tend to be done around 11 pm, and I wake up around 5-5:30 every morning. For a backyard astronomer, this can be a terrible habit, as one usually associates star-gazing with the late night hours. However, this week presents prime viewing for the early riser.

There is an interesting bright grouping of objects this week in the early morning skies. Look to the southeast before sunrise and you will see Venus & Saturn, a waning crescent Moon and the bright star Spica.

Venus is the closest to the southeast horizon, 17 degrees above the horizon. Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, is next. It is 8 degrees away from Venus and 22 degrees above the horizon. Saturn is 10 degrees from Spica, and 33 degrees above the horizon. The three do not form a straight line, but they are all close to the ecliptic plane.

Fri. 12/3/10, 6 am MST

Tues. 11/30/10, 6 am MST

The waning crescent Moon is above the grouping on Tuesday morning, in between Saturn and Spica on Wednesday morning, nearest Venus on Thursday morning, and closest to the horizon on  Friday morning. Watching the Moon move through these three objects would be a neat experience for the early morning riser.

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