Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, August 20, 2014. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California:

Orange planet Mars appears close to golden planet Saturn in the southwest sky at dusk. The angular separation between the planets shrinks from 8 to 5 degrees during the course of the week. Both planets appear in Libra the Scales and set beneath the west-southwest horizon at about 11:00 p.m. Autumn on the northern hemisphere of Mars begins on the 18th.

The waning gibbous moon changes phase to last quarter on the morning of the 17th, and is crescent for the remainder of the week. Moonrise changes from 9:44 p.m. to 2:07 a.m. between the 13th and 20th.

The brightest planet, Venus, appears in the east-northeast at 4:17 a.m., and is joined about an hour later by yellow planet Jupiter. On Thursday the 18th, look at 5:30 a.m. to see the two planets only 1/3˚ apart! Binoculars may also show Cancer the Crab’s bright star cluster, the Beehive Cluster, also known as M44, less than a degree to the upper right of the planets. On following mornings, the planets will separate, with Venus moving lower and Jupiter moving higher.

The launch of the Worldview 3 commercial imaging satellite on an Atlas V rocket may be visible from Los Angeles as it arcs into orbit across the western sky on Wednesday, August 13. The launch is scheduled to take place at 11:29 a.m., PDT, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Launch coverage will be streamed live by the United Launch Alliance.

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. Check our website for our schedule. The next 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, August 30.

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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at