Sunday, August 16, 2009

Astronomy (August 15th and 16th 2009)

On August 15th and 16th Mars is to the lower left of the Moon at first light on the 15th, and closer to the upper right of the Moon on the 16th. The star Aldebaran, which looks like Mars, is to their upper right.

Aldebaran outshines all the other stars that outline the bull's face. But Aldebaran isn't a member of the Hyades cluster, it just lies in the same direction. It's about 70 light-years away, half as far as the stars of the Hyades. Aldebaran is a red-giant, an old bloated star that's used up most of its nuclear fuel. It's much larger and much brighter than our own middle aged Sun.

On August 16 the crescent Moon and the planet Venus highlight the pre-dawn sky tomorrow. Venus is the dazzling "morning star" just below the Moon. Venus, the dazzling morning or evening star, outshines all the other stars and planets in the night sky. It begins the year in the evening sky, well up in the west as darkness begins to fall. It will disappear from view in late March as it passes between Earth and the Sun. It will return to view as a “morning star” by early April, and remain in the morning sky until December.