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Articles by J. Alex Knoll

You won’t have to wait 50 years to see the spawn of this comet

It’s been 26 years since Halley’s comet visited back in 1986, and it won’t come this way again until 2062. But each year at this time we get a postcard of sorts from Halley in the form of the Orionid meteor shower, which peaks in the pre-dawn hours Saturday and Sunday.
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A thin crescent straddles either edge of darkness

The moon wanes in pre-dawn skies  through the weekend. Friday and Saturday the last of the crescent moon hovers just a few degrees below brilliant Venus. Even without the moon, you should have no trouble finding this morning star, as it is the brightest light in the sky besides the sun and moon....

October’s Draconids are typically sleepers, but every now and then …

Sunset reveals Mars low in the southwest. Its ruddy glow is usually quite distinct, but it is only a dozen degrees from its rival, orange Antares, blinking to its upper left. You’ll have a harder time spotting Saturn, so low in the west that it’s almost lost in the glare of the setting sun.
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The Harvest Moon marks Uranus

Saturday’s full moon, the closest to autumnal equinox, marks the famous Harvest Moon. Legend holds that farmers have long used the added light of this moon to continue bringing in the crops well into the night. Science backs up the legend.
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The equinox marks the start of autumn, but it isn’t quite 50/50 day and night

The moon waxes in the evening sky this week, with first-quarter occurring on the 22nd. That day has been dubbed
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The Milky Way is waiting overhead

The moon wanes to new phase Saturday the 15th. While you may be able to see a razor-thin cresecent low in the east before sunrise Friday, the moon won’t reappear until Tuesday, low in the west for less than an hour after sunset. But given the chance, you’ll want to catch it, forming a wide obtuse triangle with Saturn slightly higher to the right and Mars higher still to the left....

Not as rare — or as old — as you might think

Friday morning marks August’s second full moon, a blue moon. While the term blue moon dates back hundreds of years, its meaning of the second full moon in a single month was crafted in the 20th century. Its early usage you might hear in the phrase I’ll believe that when the moon is blue.
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We’ve rewarded our most loyal ­companion with three constellations

Of the 88 official constellations over our heads, nearly half are animals, serpents, birds and fishes. Admired for their beauty or feared for their strength, these are wild creatures, beasts you wouldn’t want to encounter, let alone have in the house. In fact, of them all, only a few are domesticated animals. One of the oldest recognized constellations is Taurus the bull....

Don’t miss the Perseids, the best of the meteor showers

The moon reaches last-quarter Thursday, rising around midnight. Look for the faint lights of the Pleiades star cluster, marking the back of Taurus the bull, 10 degrees above the moon.
    The next night, or rather morning, the moon rises near 1am, now just scant degrees from Aldebaran, the red heart of the bull, and Jupiter, forming a tight triangle. Brilliant Venus trails this pack by about 20 degrees.
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Three points to summer’s triangle

Thursday’s full moon brightens the sky from dusk till dawn. American Indians called this the sturgeon moon, as it marks the time when these great fish once began their migration and were most easily caught. Sturgeon have been plying our waters for more than 150 million years, yet today most species are endangered.
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