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Wednesday, September 27 2023 @ 02:36 pm EDT

Catch Saturn Before It's Too Late

Education OutreachAs Saturn sets in the west, the last good evening views of the Ringed Planet until next spring means if you want to see those rings you have to attend one of the next three AOAS Public Observing Nights. Watch brilliant Venus, Mars and Saturn as they change their positions every clear evening and then all pass one another and trade places in the sky over the next few weeks. And don't forget, there are two comets in the west, too. (See story "Comets On The Doorstep" below)

As Earth revolves around our star, we occasionally watch a slow dance of cosmic poetry. That moment of magic is again at hand over the next 3-5 weeks. Venus, Mars, and Saturn all begin to cluster together in the west, and on May 21st and 22nd a thin crescent moon will join in the ballet.

Everyone can watch as the motions of the three planets changes by a small, yet noticeable amount from night-to-night. Find Venus above the WNW horizon about 45 minutes after local sunset. From there look above and slightly to the left of Venus to the next brightest "star". You've now found Saturn.

Now face south so that your right shoulder is directed towards Venus, and look up to the brightest star in the area. Again, this "star" is another planet, Jupiter.

As you face south notice where Venus, Saturn and Jupiter form a gently arcing line of stars towards the WNW horizon to where the setting sun disappeared below the horizon nearly an hour before. Notice another star that's much dimmer than the previous planets, but is still nearly in that line from Jupiter thru Saturn and down to Venus. This dimmer, reddish tinted "star" is none other than the Red Planet, Mars.

For those who saw it in August of 2003, it's hard to recall that at that time it was almost equal in brightness to what Jupiter is now.

On May 21st the crescent moon will be half-way between Venus and Saturn. On that evening Mars will have moved to a posiion right next to Saturn and VERY close to each other. The view will be stunning and will make for beautiful pictures with 35mm SLR cameras or some digital cameras. The next night Saturn will have seemed to move slightly below Mars, and the crescent moon will have climbed more than 15 degrees higher, but will still be easy to photograph in a wide angle camera lens.

Come to Coleman Observatory May 15th, or on May 21st and 22nd come to Carol Ann Cross Park on 74th Street near Euper Lane, or about a mile north of Rogers at St Edwards Hospital. (See story "Stars in the Parks" below)The public is invited and this will make a GREAT family outing. As always, we never charge to look through our telescopes.

Come watch the beauty of nature's ballet.
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