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Articles by J. Alex Knoll

Lyra the harp has star upon star hidden amid its strings

As the sun dips toward the horizon around 8:30, Venus burns through the haze of twilight low in the west. By 9pm this evening star dominates the heavens, shining at magnitude –3.8 about 10 degrees above the skyline. With a clear view below Venus and perhaps binoculars, you may be able to spot Mercury tight against the horizon within a half-hour of sunset.
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Supermoon comes just days after summer solstice

Thursday, June 20, is Midsummer’s Night, the shortest night of the year, with barely nine hours of darkness. Then, at 1:04am Friday, the sun reaches its northernmost position above the earth, marking the astronomical beginning of summer for us in the Northern Hemisphere. It is our longest day, with more than 14 hours 54 minutes of sunlight.
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The strained relationship of Cepheus and his daughter Andromeda

When we look to the night sky for father figures, we’re hard-pressed. There are heroes and rogues, serpents and dragons, birds and beasts, fish and fishermen, harps and chariots. But there is only one father among the constellations, and not a good role model at that.
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Three planets toy with the sun

This week boasts the earliest sunrises of the year, when old Sol crests the horizon at 5:41am. We’re still a couple weeks from solstice, the overall longest day of the year, and the latest sunset won’t come for another two weeks after that. Why? Several reasons, including earth’s not-quite-spherical shape, its elliptical orbit around the sun and the varying point of high noon across the globe.
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Smoke, sauce and good times yield $60K to help kids

It’s taken almost a month to clean the barbecue sauce from their hands, giving the good Samaritans of the Parole Rotary Club a chance to count the money raised at the third annual Naptown barBAYq Contest and Music Festival. The two-day festival in early May drew a crowd estimated at more than 15,000 and raised upward of $60,000 for local charities and non-profits.
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You’ll have to explore Canes Venatici

As evening twilight gives way to darkness, the first star to appear is likely no star at all but rather Venus, so bright you may be able to spot it in the west-northwest before sunset. By the time the sun does set, there should be no mistaking Venus, although the evening star does have company.
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Mercury, Venus and Jupiter gather in the glow of twilight

As the sun sets, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury emerge in its wake. These three planets will spend the coming week in one another’s company, playing a celestial game of leap-frog low in the west-northwest after sunset.
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Venus, Jupiter and Mercury are aligning in the west

The moon is at first-quarter Thursday the 16th, when it appears high in the southwest at sunset and sets around 1am. Over the next week it shifts roughly 10 degrees to the east at sunset each night, until on the 23rd, the night of full moon, it rises as the sun sets and sets the next morning as the sun rises.
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Kenneth Walsh on how 10 modern-day presidents tried to keep in touch

For more than 25 years, Kenneth Walsh has covered the White House and its chief occupant for U.S. News & World Report, penning more than a dozen books in that time. His latest, Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America’s Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership, explores the irony that the most powerful man in the world, the president of the United States, is powerless against the confines of his very office.
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Can you find Corona Borealis?

Thursday’s new moon is hidden amid the glare of the sun, but it reemerges Friday as a most slender, young crescent that you just might be able to see. You’ll need clear skies, an unobstructed view to the west-northwest and spot-on timing, as this moon appears low against the horizon for 15 minutes at most immediately following sunset....