27 September 2011

Observing Twilight into Dusk

The minutes after sunset are some of the most beautiful, as the last rays of sunlight have disappeared and the sky begins its daily transition from bright blue to dark night. Looking west after sunset in the early days of Fall, you quickly find Arcturus shining due west, at first looking almost like an airplane that is moving very slowly. But soon you realize that this is a star, the third-brightest in the heavens. It is bright enough to shine clearly through the glow of twilight. The colors of the sky are changing rapidly during twilight, and the brightest stars soon emerge. In late September, you can easily find the fifth-brightest star in the heavens, Vega, directly overhead, guiding you to its neighbors Deneb and Altair in the Summer Triangle. And looking back toward the western horizon where Arcturus is shining, you can soon find the red supergiant star Antares shining low to the left (south-west) of Arcturus.

Later this week, the young Moon arrives in the twilight sky and passes near Antares. Find a nice western horizon, get comfortable, and enjoy the evening show that is pleasant, relaxing and beautiful to see.

Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope Magazine.

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