Stargazing: Close encounters in the morning sky

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This month, as our "evening star" Jupiter shines steadfast over the southern sky, our "morning stars" take part in two impressive planetary pairings.

Since returning to the morning sky, Saturn has slowly inched higher above the eastern horizon and is now on course to pass close to Mercury and Venus in the next two weeks.

Saturn will make its first close encounter Thursday morning with Mercury, when it sits less than 1/2 degree north of the brighter inner planet. This impressive gathering takes place about six degrees above the eastern horizon one hour before sunrise. Even though the close encounter between these "morning stars" can be see with the unaided eye, try observing through binoculars for a better view.

After their close conjunction on Thursday, look for Mercury to sink closer to the horizon and Saturn to climb higher in the morning sky until it passes Venus on Oct.13. Later next week, a thin crescent moon will also pass the planets.



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