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So Long, Saturn: Hello Moon, Venus, Mercury and Mars

Saturn is at conjunction with the sun in early September. This means that Saturn nearly disappears behind the sun for a few days. By late September, however, Saturn emerges from behind the sun and can be seen in the early morning sky a few hours before dawn.

While we lose Saturn in the evening sky for a few weeks this month, a planetary trio - Mercury, Mars and Venus - perform a celestial waltz for us just after sunset. On September 3rd, the slender crescent moon joins the audience.

Views of the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars after sunset, September 3, 2008
Star chart of the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars after sunset, September 3, 2008.

Venus is the only easy-to see planet in this trio, unfortunately. But if you use Venus as your "landmark," with a little luck and a pair of binoculars, you just might catch a glimpse of second brightest Mercury and fainter Mars.

Look to the west on September 3rd, one half hour after sunset. You'll easily find bright Venus and spot the crescent moon to the left. Now, aim your binoculars at Venus. The three planets all fit within the field of view of most binoculars. Mercury is a little below Venus, and Mars is to the left.

This dance of the planets lasts for several weeks. Look again and see the line-up shift. On the 16th both Mars and Mercury are below Venus. A few days later, on September 9th, you'll spot the big bright waxing gibbous moon close to Jupiter in the Southern Sky.

Last Updated: 2 February 2011

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Last Updated: 2 Feb 2011