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Moon and Saturn close in morning sky

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Tonight – April 14, 2017 – stay up until mid-to-late evening to catch the moon rising above your eastern horizon. Then stay up a bit later, and watch the planet Saturn follow the moon into your sky by very late evening, or after midnight. At northerly latitudes, like those in the United States and Europe, you have to be up late to see them. South of the equator and not a night owl? You’re in luck. The moon and then Saturn climb over your horizon a bit earlier at night.

Click here for recommended sky almanacs; they can tell you the moon and Saturn’s rising time into your sky.

From anywhere on Earth, you’ll have your best view of the moon and Saturn in the predawn sky. That’s because the moon and Saturn soar highest in the sky at or near dawn. Clouded out on the morning of April 15? No matter. Depending on where you live worldwide, the moon and Saturn couple up most closely on the mornings of April 16 or 17.

There’s just one wrinkle in your moon-and-Saturn viewing over the next few mornings. The bright star Antares is also nearby. Red Antares and golden Saturn are similar in color. Antares is known for being a fierce twinkler, while Saturn – as a planet – shines steadily. Those comparisons will be interesting to make when you view these worlds. Just don’t confuse Antares for Saturn! Saturn will be slightly brighter. Plus Antares is located at the heart of a very distinctive pattern of stars, the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. The chart below shows Scorpius’ distinctive shape.

Outline of constellation Scorpius, with red star Antares at the Scorpion’s Heart. Via rondeauprovincialpark

Bottom line: These next several mornings – April 15, 16 and 17 – watch for the moon near the golden planet Saturn and the red star Antares.

Bruce McClure

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