Equal day and night occurred Thursday, when sunrise was at 6:45 a.m. and sunset 6:45 p.m. Today is the beginning of nearly six months during which night will be longer than day. The length of day will continue to decrease a few minutes almost everyday in October. Add to this that clocks are set for Eastern Daylight Time - which puts sunrise an hour later than actual - and we'll find that the dark of night is increasingly present in the early morning. And so we rise to commune with the stars at usual, or nearly usual, wake-up time.

The crispness and clarity of the early autumn air and atmosphere at daybreak is inviting, if not alluring, whether deliciously balmy or presciently brisk. Even as a pale bluegreen band lights the eastern horizon at 6 a.m. these days, celebrated stars of winter nights paint the sky to the south. Planet Jupiter, a diamond high in the southeast, is bright until about 6:30 a.m. A waning (decreasing in size) crescent moon enhances the cosmic panoply all week, through Thursday.

Returning to the darkness at 6 a.m., as Jupiter's beacon shines from near zenith, next brightest, Sirius the Dog Star, is radiant below and to the planet's right. Dimmer, tawny Mars is to the left, east of the giant planet. The wonderful figure of Orion the Hunter stretches above Sirius: reddish Betelgeuse is above 3 stars in a row, the hunter's belt, with blue- white Rigel below it. Bright, red- orange Aldebaran of Taurus the Bull stands out to Orion's right.


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At 6:20, Jupiter, Sirius and Rigel can still be seen with ease, creating a triangle of the brightest lights. Look with a soft gaze to find Orion's star-studded belt that is being washed over by dawn's light.

To contact Judy Isacoff go to: www.naturesturn.org