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Neighboring planets to be noticeable in pre-dawn sky

Tue., Oct. 6, 2009, 7:08 a.m.

Three of Earth’s nearest celestial neighbors will be visible as a group in the morning twilight this week, astronomers said.

Saturn, Venus and Mercury can be seen in the pre-dawn hours in the eastern sky just above the horizon, and Saturn and Mercury will pass one another with a separation of 0.3 degrees prior to sunrise Thursday.

Mercury will reach its greatest separation from the sun Tuesday morning. Saturn is reappearing in the morning sky this month and will be below and slightly to the left of Mercury on Tuesday, but rising to meet Mercury by Thursday morning.

Sunrise is about 7 a.m., and astronomers said the three planets should be visible by about 6:15 a.m. Their relative positions to one another will change each morning. On Oct. 13, Saturn and Venus will be in close proximity. A waning crescent moon joins them on Oct. 16.

In addition, a waning harvest moon will appear high in the western sky before dawn.

Weather forecasts through the week are favorable for viewing the planets.

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