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Bright light on eastern horizon is planet Venus

  • Special to The Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, at 7:45 a.m.

Look about 12 degrees above the eastern horizon at 6 a.m. and you will see an unusually bright-looking star. There is no other object in that area of the sky that is even close to being as bright.

The celestial object you are looking at is not a star at all, but the planet Venus. It is the second planet in order of its distance from the sun. The earth is the third planet from the sun.

Through a small telescope, Venus now looks like a gibbous moon and is about 88 percent illuminated. Less than 2 degrees away from Venus from our line of sight here on earth is the planet Saturn. Now is an excellent opportunity to see Saturn and its magnificent ring system.

However, a telescope at a low power of at least 40 times is needed to see the ring system. With the unaided eye, it will be a little difficult to see the planet Saturn near Venus because Venus is about 70 times brighter than Saturn. A pair of binoculars, however, will show the pair much better.

The two planets continue to approach closer to each other, and on Tuesday morning, they will be less than 1 degree apart.

Saturn is the sixth planet in order of its distance from the sun. It is also the second-largest planet in our solar system, with an equatorial diameter of approximately 75,000 miles.

Bob Everoski lives in Halstead and is an astronomer and mathematician. He taught astronomy and space science at various colleges and planetariums, including Friends University and the Burke Baker Planetarium in Houston.

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