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Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll

There’s more to Shaula and Lesath than appears at first glance

Soon after sunset on September 10th and 11th, the nascent crescent moon joins Venus low in the west. These two are the first two lights to appear after sunset, around 7:20 Saturday, when Venus shines six degrees to the right of the moon. Sunday, the moon and Venus form a loose triangle with the dim star Zubenelgenubi in the constellation Libra.

Less daytime and a waning moon leave plenty to see

With summer on the wane, the sun sets around 7:30 at week’s end, shedding more than a minute of evening sunlight each night. In the morning it’s more of the same, as the sun rises at 6:37 Saturday and almost a minute later each morning.

One of our greatest feats follows us on four legs

When you look to the constellations, it’s like paging through history. Creatures abound in the constellations, both real and fanciful. We see kings and queens, beasts and heroes, all recounting the travails and triumphs of ancient times. Today, many are obscure and unfamiliar.

In the water, on the land and in the heavens, fall is on the way

The gibbous moon waxes to full Tuesday, traveling through the rising constellations of autumn. At one time, great sturgeon filled America’s waterways each August as they fattened up for the coming cold, and so this full moon was called the Sturgeon Moon. But these days the fish are so scarce they are off limits to anglers. Today, reflecting our modern, agrarian society, August’s full moon is called the Corn Moon and the Grain Moon.

Goodness gracious!

In the deepening twilight, Venus, Saturn and Mars blink into view above the west horizon. Thursday the waxing crescent moon joins the fray, with none farther than seven degrees from any other. The planets set around 10pm at week’s end, and while Mars and Venus remain just a few degrees apart through most of the month, Saturn drops from sight over the next few days. The moon reaches first-quarter Monday, and only then does its light last past midnight, leaving clear skies for this year’s Perseid meteor shower.

Tiny particles add up to bright lights

The sun sets a few minutes after 8:00 this week, revealing a triumvirate of bright planets in its wake. Venus, Mars and Saturn continue their weeks-long dance above the western horizon. Over the next week, watch as Mars and Saturn jockey for position just above brilliant Venus. The three planets are their tightest on Saturday, all within five degrees of one another.

Saturn, Mars and Venus vie for position in the west at twilight

The waning moon rises after 10pm at week’s end, then crests the horizon 20-plus minutes later each night, so that by Tuesday, the last-quarter moon rises after midnight. Friday’s gibbous moon rises with glowing Jupiter only six degrees to the south, and the two remain tight through the wee hours before dawn, appearing high in the south with sunrise Saturday at 6:06.

The statues of Easter Island have front-row seats for solar eclipse

Early risers Friday might catch the last of the waning crescent moon low in the east in the 90 minutes before daybreak at 5:48. Ten degrees to its left, glows Aldebaran, the bright red heart of Taurus the bull. Later that same day, as darkness settles in after 8:30, Venus appears above the west horizon.