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Early Morning Planets

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Tom Westre
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During February Venus is easy to spot in the evening sky after the sun sets.

For early risers, three planets are lined up in the eastern sky about one hour before the sunrises.

Mars is the highest, followed by the king of the planets, Jupiter, then closer to the horizon is the famous ringed planet Saturn.

The waning crescent moon joins the three planets this week.

This morning the moon moved in front of Mars, tomorrow morning, February 19th the waning crescent moon lies just to the right of the middle planet Jupiter, then on the morning of February 20th the thin crescent moon lies just below the lowest planet and nearest the horizon, Saturn.

When we look at these three planets and the moon it’s hard to determine how far away they are from us.

The moon is about 240,000 miles, Mars is 167 million miles, Jupiter is 548 million miles while distant Saturn is a billion miles from earth. At Saturn’s distance it takes light from the sun nearly 90 minutes to reach Saturn. Another way to understand this if NASA were to talk to an astronaut in orbit around Saturn it would take nearly 90 minutes for the NASA signal to reach Saturn and another 90 minutes for the astronaut’s reply to reach NASA on earth.

As you enjoy the morning views of these three planets its mind-stretching to think about how big the solar system is.