Monday, September 19, 2011

Stargazing: Waning crescent moon passes Mars

Crescent Moon
The official end of summer, and the beginning of autumn, will occur on Friday at 5:06 p.m. when the sun passes halfway between its summer high point and winter low point in the sky.

This morning's last quarter moon signals that the current lunar month is also coming to an end. The moon will shrink this week to a left-hand crescent in the eastern morning sky before disappearing into the glare of the sun next Tuesday. As the crescent sinks to the horizon this week, stargazers should look toward the eastern sky one hour before sunrise to see the crescent pass Mars Thursday and Friday mornings.

Mars is currently located in Cancer and rises around 2 a.m. It's headed for an encounter with M44, the Beehive Star Cluster, on Oct.1. The Red Planet will continue to brighten and rise earlier this autumn and winter. It will return to prominence in the evening sky in February and March, shining at it brightest in more than two years.

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