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A Feast for the Eyes

Fill up on these heavenly views

Friday’s new moon re-emerges as a razor-thin crescent with sunset Saturday, at 4:45. Look for it low in the southwest, its bottom tip pointing to dazzling Venus just a few degrees higher. Mercury lurks a little farther from the moon but closer to the horizon and buried so deep you’ll likely need binoculars to pick it out before it sets at 5:30.
    Sunset Sunday reveals the waxing moon a little higher above the southwest horizon, now with its curved back to Venus, just a half-dozen
degrees away. Night by night the moon appears roughly 15 degrees higher at sunset. Venus, too, is climbing higher, but our sister planet’s pace is far slower, inching little more than a degree higher each night. Still, by year’s end, the evening star will blaze high in the southwest at sunset.
    As evening deepens, Jupiter appears high in the east. Jupiter is the second-brightest object other than the sun and the moon, and perched amid the dim stars of autumn and winter, the gaseous giant stands out all the more.
    Astronomers have discovered 63 moons orbiting the fifth planet from the sun, more than any other planet in our solar system. The four largest — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto — are easily visible with even a modest telescope. Io and Europa are about the same size as our moon, 2,160 miles in diameter, whereas Ganymede and Callisto are half again our moon’s diameter.
    Mars rises around midnight and is high in the south-southeast with dawn’s approach. Less than 10 degrees higher is Regulus, the heart of Leo the lion. While a first-magnitude star, it is a little dimmer than Mars and its blue-white color is a sharp contrast to the ruddy planet.
    The sun doesn’t rise until after 7:00, providing ample viewing of Saturn low in the east-southeast before dawn. Bright sparkling Spica is just a few degrees ahead of the ringed planet.