Two naked-eye planets at dawn, one at dusk and two to be seen into the early evening bring excitement and focus to stargazing at the beginning and end of most days this week. Summer constellations fill the nighttime sky and winter constellations the morning, before daybreak. At our latitude, mind and body absorb the power of Earth ablaze with late summer sunlight and heat. We breathe the deep blue sky and sense it protective, nurturing.

In morning darkness and twilight, Venus and Jupiter can be seen near the east-northeast horizon by around 5 and until about 5:45. The distance between the two has widened since they appeared side-by-side last Monday, however, a dynamic tension still prevails as Jupiter climbs higher and Venus drops lower, toward the rising sun. At 5:30, the brightest stars of Orion -- Betelgeuse and Rigel -- linger in the southeast.

Sunrise is noticeably more easterly than northerly now that the Autumn Equinox is less than a month away. Come Saturday, sun-up will be at 6:17, an hour later than its earliest rising in June, while sunset will be an hour earlier. Yes, that adds two hours to nighttime. Tonight, sundown is at 7:42. Mercury sets around 8:15 p.m. all week. On Wednesday, a wisp of a crescent moon and Mercury, to its right, grace our eyes, briefly, in the west as the sun's afterglow fades. The moon climbs higher each evening; the little planet remains close to the skyline, to be teased out of the sunset glow. Mercury may be seen into September, although binoculars may be essential.


Mars and Saturn appear in the southwest with dusk. The dance of these two planets in the evening sky somewhat mirrors Venus and Jupiter's changing relationship in the morning. The red planet is arriving at its closest approach to its ringed dance partner. As it continues eastward, it swings below and to the left of Saturn. The crescent moon arcs towards the pair Saturday.

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