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The Fastest Light of All

More than stars and planets brighten our night skies

The moon wanes through week’s end, reaching new phase Sunday. Friday the thin crescent rises around 4am, trailing a dozen degrees behind the Gemini twins Castor and Pollux to slightly to the north and ruddy Mars a little to the south.
    Saturday, the last sliver of moon rises at 5am. Mars is far to the west, while between the moon and the horizon is the bright glow of Mercury. You should have no trouble spotting Mars, but you may need binoculars to isolate Mercury and even the moon against the glare of the coming sun, which rises at 6:30.
    While the moon disappears from pre-dawn skies after the weekend, Mercury climbs higher and shines brighter through the first week of September.
    Saturn and Jupiter also brighten our night skies. The ringed planet appears at sunset, around 7:45 this week, but sets less than two hours later. Jupiter rises around 11pm in the east-northeast and is high in the south at sunrise.
    Another bright light graces our skies this week, as the International Space Station makes several good passes overhead, out-shining any star and streaking faster than a jet or plane.
    Sunday at 9:02pm the ISS appears some 10 degrees low in the north-northwest and sets in the northeast three minutes later, climbing 20 degrees above the horizon at its peak. Monday will be more tricky, as the space station climbs a mere 13 degrees above the horizon, appearing in the north at 8:04pm and setting in the northeast three minutes later. Tuesday is better, when it appears in the north-northwest at 8:41pm, climbs 30 degrees and then sets in the east-northeast at 8:44.
    But the best sighting of the ISS comes Thursday, September 1, when it climbs two-thirds of the way to the celestial apex, first appearing in the northwest at 8:23pm and setting in the east-southeast four minutes later.