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Out of the Growing Dark

While we’re seeing less of the sun, the nights are lighting up

The sun sets in the west-southwest just after 6:00 at week’s end and more than a minute earlier each day thereafter for the next couple weeks. It’s no better in the morning, with sunrise at 7:36 Friday but more than a minute later each following day. So while Sunday’s return to Standard Time may give us back the hour of morning sleep it stole from us last April, setting our clocks back that one hour cannot stave our actual loss of daylight.
    But with darkness, the night lights up. If you have a clear view in the setting sun’s wake, scan the horizon for Venus, twinkling brightly as earth’s atmosphere warps her brilliant light. She’s so bright, in fact, that you may at first glance think you’re looking at an airplane, but her only movement is a slow descent from view a half-hour after sunset.
    Just below Venus is Mercury, but you may need binoculars to locate him so close to the horizon. Appearing almost side by side over the next week, the two planets inch southward each night toward the red star Antares, until next Thursday when the three hover one above the other.
    Jupiter appears juxtaposed in the east-northeast at day’s end, blazing his way to the west through the night and early morn. With the new week, Jupiter and the waxing moon draw together, coming within a half-dozen degrees of one another Wednesday.
    Orange-hued Mars rises around 2am with blue-white Regulus trailing by only a few degrees. By 6am, they are high in the southwest.
    With the approach of dawn, Saturn appears low in the east-southeast, having made the move from evening to pre-dawn skies. Each morning he rises a little earlier and grows a little easier to see. Spica shines less than five degrees below the ringed planet.