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Regulars (Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll)

This week’s moon visits two star clusters a billion years apart

Before dawn Friday morning, the moon appears just a few degrees ahead of the orange star Aldebaran, the fiery eye of Taurus the bull. To either side of the moon, you’ll find the two brightest star clusters. To the east is the Y-shaped Hyades cluster, or the face of the bull. To the moon’s west is the Pleiades cluster, or the seven sisters, which marks the bull’s shoulder.
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Not as rare — or as old — as you might think

Friday morning marks August’s second full moon, a blue moon. While the term blue moon dates back hundreds of years, its meaning of the second full moon in a single month was crafted in the 20th century. Its early usage you might hear in the phrase I’ll believe that when the moon is blue.
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Can you track down Neptune?

Thursday and Friday offer the best chance to track down the only planet never visible to the unaided eye: Neptune, the most distant planet in the solar system since Pluto’s demotion to planetoid status several years ago.
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We’ve rewarded our most loyal ­companion with three constellations

Of the 88 official constellations over our heads, nearly half are animals, serpents, birds and fishes. Admired for their beauty or feared for their strength, these are wild creatures, beasts you wouldn’t want to encounter, let alone have in the house. In fact, of them all, only a few are domesticated animals. One of the oldest recognized constellations is Taurus the bull....

Don’t miss the Perseids, the best of the meteor showers

The moon reaches last-quarter Thursday, rising around midnight. Look for the faint lights of the Pleiades star cluster, marking the back of Taurus the bull, 10 degrees above the moon.
    The next night, or rather morning, the moon rises near 1am, now just scant degrees from Aldebaran, the red heart of the bull, and Jupiter, forming a tight triangle. Brilliant Venus trails this pack by about 20 degrees.
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Three points to summer’s triangle

Thursday’s full moon brightens the sky from dusk till dawn. American Indians called this the sturgeon moon, as it marks the time when these great fish once began their migration and were most easily caught. Sturgeon have been plying our waters for more than 150 million years, yet today most species are endangered.
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Summer nights are always filled with stellar sights

A gibbous moon waxes through afternoon and evening skies this week. Friday the moon, just past first quarter, is low in the southwest after sunset, with fiery Antares, the heart of Scorpius, trailing less than 10 degrees behind.
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What color will you see in Libra’s beta star?

Thursday’s new moon leaves weekend skies bereft of excess light, highlighting the backdrop of stellar lights.
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There’s a lot to see in our galaxy

Venus is at its brightest in the east before dawn this week, reaching its greatest illuminated extent on the 12th, when it occupies the greatest chunk of celestial real estate as viewed from Earth. After that, the planet pulls away from us, dimming a bit but by no means losing its clear title as the brightest object in the sky other than sun and moon.
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Looking for ET with Hercules

Given the scorching temperatures of late, you might be surprised to know that earth is at its farthest point from the sun this time of year, called, aphelion. On July 4, Earth reached the apex of its elliptical orbit around the sun at 94,505,851 miles. That’s about three million miles farther than at perihelion, earth’s closest point to the sun.
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