This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through August 31st, 2016. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
Venus, the brightest planet, and Jupiter, the second brightest, appear near each other above the western horizon shortly after sunset. They are separated by an angular distance of three degrees on the 24th, but are only 1/5 of a degree (less than half of the moon’s apparent diameter) from each other on the 27th. Besides making a striking pair for the unaided eye, both planets (and Jupiter’s moons) will then fit into the same telescopic field of view. From Los Angeles, the best time to look is at the end of civil twilight, at 7:50 p.m. Both planets set at 8:27 p.m. From the east coast of North America, Jupiter and Venus will appear even closer together after sunset. On following nights, Jupiter becomes more and more difficult to see as it moves closer to the horizon.
As twilight deepens, the orange planet Mars, the golden planet Saturn, and the orange star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion make an eye-catching group in the south. Mars is the brightest of the three objects, and Saturn is the second brightest. Notice how the planets seem to shine more steadily than the star, Antares. On the 24th, the three objects form a vertical line, with Mars four degrees south of Saturn, and less than two degrees above Antares. On following nights, Mars will appear farther to the east of Saturn and Antares. By the 30th, Mars will be more than four degrees to the upper left of Antares. Saturn and Mars set in the west-southwest at midnight.
The moon rises at 12:07 a.m. on the 25th in last quarter phase, and at 5:45 a.m. on the 31st, when it is a slender waning crescent.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday, before 9:30 p.m. Because of heavy traffic, we advise arriving as early as possible! Check our website for the schedule. The next free public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, September 10.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.