National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Science & Technology
Planets Rise and Shine

The early-bird gets a celestial treat towards the end of August 2006. Just before the eastern sky brightens with sunrise, three planets and the waning crescent moon join the starry twilight tapestry. As the bright stars of Gemini and Orion fade with oncoming dawn, the planets rise and shine.

An early morning view.
An early morning view.

Step outside 45 minutes before sunrise Aug. 20 to 22. The celestial view is well worth an early wake up. The planets Venus, Mercury and Saturn dance on the ecliptic -- the plane of Earth's orbit and the imaginary line tracing it in the sky. The sun, moon and planets appear to move along this line.

Venus, rising an hour and a half before sunrise, is the easiest to see in the morning sky. 241 million kilometers (150 million miles) distant, Venus is Earth-sized.

Mercury, at a distance of 183 million kilometers (114 million miles), is the fastest and smallest of the inner planets and appears brighter than the more distant Saturn.

Saturn, 1,517 million kilometers (943 million miles) distant, was at conjunction with the sun just two weeks ago and now rises nearly an hour before sunrise.

The crescent moon appears above the three planets on Aug. 20 and 21, and just to the left of the planets on Aug 22.

On Aug. 26 and 27 Saturn pairs with much brighter Venus at dawn. What other planets can we see in late August - Mars sets 45 minutes after sunset by month end but is lost from view in the twilight, while brilliant Jupiter remains prominent as the only planet visible for a few hours during the late August evenings.

Last Updated: 24 February 2011

Science Features
Astrobiology
Astronomy Features
Power
Technology Assessment Reports
Sungrazing Comets

 

Best of NASA Science
NASA Science Highlights
Technology Features
Propulsion
Lectures & Discussions

Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 24 Feb 2011