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Photo of the Week.Gold on blue and white.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 29, 2014.

The waxing crescent Moon climbs up the western evening sky the early part of the week, passing first quarter on the morning of Tuesday, September 2. By the time of Moonrise that afternoon, the Moon will already have launched itself into its waxing gibbous phase, full Moon not achieved until next Monday the 8th. Having passed conjunction with Saturn last week, Mars is now east of the more slowly-moving ringed planet. The separation between the two planets will rapidly grow. But for now, they are close enough together that they will make a fine triangle with the crescent Moon in late twilight the evening of Sunday the 31st, the two planets about the same brightness, Mars of course the redder. The previous and following evenings are worth a look as well, with the Moon to the west of the pair the early evening of Saturday the 30th, to the east on Monday the 1st. By the end of the week, Mars will be about a third of the way from Saturn to namesake Antares (meaning like Ares, or Mars) in Scorpius. Look early, as the planets set shortly after 10 PM Daylight Time.

Since the beginning of the year, Venus has been the strikingly obvious object in the morning sky. As Venus slips away, rising in late twilight, it's Jupiter's turn. While not as bright as Venus, it has the advantage of rising in a dark sky around 4 AM, well before the onset of dawn. Jupiter takes just short of a dozen years to orbit the Sun. It therefore on the average spends about one year in each constellation of the Zodiac. During much of the year we've seen it plying its way against the bright stars of Gemini. Now it's dim Cancer's turn, the planet just to the southeast of the Beehive cluster, which is easily visible in binoculars. The morning of Friday the 5th will feature a special sight: Venus under a degree to the north of the star Regulus in Leo, with Jupiter higher up.

In mid-evening and mid-temperate latitudes, the star Vega shines nearly overhead. Just to the southeast of it lies a lovely small parallelogram that makes the rest of the constellation of Lyra, the Harp, or Lyre. To the east of Vega find Deneb at the top of the Northern Cross, while to the west is the box of stars that makes the Keystone of Hercules. Just south of the northwestern star of the Keystone (Eta Herculis) is one of the grand sights of the sky, the massive globular cluster Messier 13, which is easily visible in binoculars.
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