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Moon Aligns with Three Planets in Spectacular Show Above Washington, Oregon, Coast

Published 04/15/2020 at 6:54 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Moon Aligns with Three Planets in Spectacular Show Above Washington, Oregon, Coast

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(Portland, Oregon) – While you can’t witness it on the Oregon or Washington coast (if you’re a visitor, that is), there is something new and interesting to check out in the skies as you’re sheltering at home in places like Seattle, Washington, Portland, Ashland, Tacoma, Pendleton or Yakima. Look for the moon to make a wild little show in conjunction with the planets of our solar system. (Photo credidt: Stellarium).

According to OMSI’s Jim Todd, this coming morning you’ll want to watch for the waning crescent moon pass by the three morning planets: Jupiter, Saturn and Mars will be low above the southeastern horizon. It happened this morning already at 3.5 hours before sunset, and it will do the same overnight (April 16) during Thursday’s wee hours, and on Friday.

It all takes place about 4:30 a.m. or later in the Pacific Northwest. The moon will be to the right of Mars, Saturn and Jupiter – which will themselves be somewhat clumped together. During this celestial “conjunction,” the waning moon will slide into a different position each morning relative to the planetary lineup.

On Friday morning, the celestial conjunction takes place again but this time the moon will be more on the left side of the cluster.

Mars will be the reddish one, Saturn is slightly yellow and Jupiter will be a bright white. Those last two are gas giants – planets with no real “ground” like Earth, Mercury or Mars.

Todd said Jupiter is at a magnitude of -2.23, the most brilliant of the morning planets. Both Mars and Saturn are near the magnitude of +1. In view, Saturn sits between Mars and Jupiter.

“All are best viewed with binoculars,” Todd said.

The clustering of these planets is in and of itself a fascinating sight.

“Please note, Jupiter and Saturn will be near 5 degrees apart and remain morning objects until end of May,” Todd said. “Starting in June, the two gas giants will emerge into the summer evenings separated at 6 degrees. Mars will eventually appear in evening skies mid-July.”

During all this Venus is the brightest star in the sky at a magnitude of -4.5.

“Venus is so bright because its thick clouds reflect most of the sunlight that reaches it (about 70%) back into space, and because it is the closest planet to Earth,” Todd said. “Given clear skies, it will be hard to miss Venus, the third-brightest celestial body to light up the sky, after the sun and moon.”

Meanwhile, Comet Y4 could be making for startling sights about the Oregon coast, Washington coast and inland areas like Portland, Seattle and the rest of the northwest.

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