Beauty in the Oakland Skies This Week for Early Risers.

Please click on the photos to enlarge and clarify them.

If you’ve been up and out before dawn this week, you may have looked to the southeast and seen three bright stars appearing to be lined up in formation. What you’re seeing are the planets Venus, Jupiter, and Mars.

Every morning this week, these planets appear to change position relative to one another as they move in their individual orbits. Venus is currently the brightest object in the morning sky, with Jupiter second. Mars is currently the faintest of the three.  Here’s what they looked like on Thursday October 22nd and Friday October 23rd.

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Venus, Jupiter, and Mars on October 22nd.

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Venus, Jupiter, and Mars on October 23rd.

In just 24 hours, Venus and Jupiter have noticably closed their distance, relative to one another, while Mars is checking out toward the lower left (one week ago, Mars and Jupiter appeared to be almost touching one another).

The photos are intentionally a bit grainy in order to show the silhouettes of trees behind my house, to give you some perspective. Also, note that the October 23rd photo was taken through some high overcast, causing Venus, in particular, to appear large and fuzzy, as compared to the previous morning’s image, taken in pristine conditions.

These planets currently reside in the constellation Leo. You can see the star pattern that forms the lion, above and to the left of the planets. Above Venus, you can see the lion’s head, looking like a large, reverse question mark, tilted at an angle; the lion’s back haunch is a large triangle of stars to the left of the planets. These are not seen in the photos because they are outside the boundaries of the photo images.

As an added attraction, a fourth planet, Mercury, is visible low on the southeastern horizon. From my location, I couldn’t see Mercury when I took these photos around 6:15am because the hill behind my house blocked my view of the rising planet.

Venus and Jupiter will appear closest to one another on the mornings of October 25th and 26th. Then they will quickly appear to separate as Jupiter continues to rise in the dawn sky, while Venus heads back toward the dawn horizon.

So, if you’re outside just before dawn over the next few days, take a moment to look toward the southeast and enjoy the beauty of the ever-changing planetary ballet taking place in our skies. And remember to keep unnecessary lights off, so you and others can see this spectacle most clearly.

Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.

We encourage you to share your thoughts in the reply section. We welcome the dialogue and learning of others’ perspectives.

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UPDATE: October 30, 2015.

It’s been cloudy for a few nights, but this morning’s predawn sky was pristine from my location. Here is a photo of the three planets taken around 6:15am today. Notice how Mars has pulled away from Jupiter (compared to the earlier photos shown above) and Venus has switched position, moving from the uppermost of the three planets to the middle one. All that movement occurred in one week.

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Also, if you click on the above photo, you might be able to make out two tiny dots, just below Jupiter’s disk, almost touching it. These are two of the larger moons of Jupiter in their orbit around the giant planet. The reason I could capture the images of Jupiter’s moons without a telescope is because, not only was the sky cloud-free, but it was relatively free of air pollution and light pollution.

Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.

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UPDATE: OCTOBER 31, 2015.

In 24 hours, Venus moved from the 2 o’clock position relative to Mars, to the 2:30 position. Taken at 6:15am, three of Jupiter’s moons are visible, just below and seeming to almost touch the planet. Click on the image to get a better view. FYI, the smudge that looks like a galaxy in all photos is a reflection in the lens, caused by the brilliance of Venus.

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