Planets light up sunset sky this month

If you are facing south or west these next few clear evenings, you may notice what looks like stars in the dusk sky, appearing ahead of the nighttime starry tapestry.

Those "stars" are actually some of our neighbors in the solar system, showing up bright in the sky before twilight gives way to the dark, starry sky. The next few evenings should provide clear viewing of the neighboring planets around sunset.

Thanks to the time of year and where the other planets are in their orbit, we get a good view of several planets around sunset, before other stars appear. Sunset this time of year is around 8:30 pm. On a clear evening, head outside around sunset to where you have a clear view of the western and southern skies. Looking west to where the sun went down, you should see two bright objects. The one higher up in the sky is Venus, which shows up bright in the west. To the right and lower in the sky nearby should be Mercury, also showing up like a small star. Both of these planets are "setting" at this point, like the sun, and eventually will dip below the horizon.

After Venus and Mercury go down, you may be able to see Saturn and Mars rise in the southeastern sky. These planets may show up better closer to midnight, so the viewing of them in the dusk sky may not be quite as brilliant.

Finally, high up in the southern sky should be a bright object. That would be Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. Jupiter should be easy to spot, since it will be the only bright object in the southern sky, high overhead, around sunset these next few weeks.

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