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Celestial triangle this weekend

Andrew Fazekas, astronomer
July 13, 2012 — This weekend is a busy one in the heavens for skywatchers, with a planet and moon lineup making an appearance at dawn on July 14th and 15th.

Northern lights may brighten up the sky Saturday and Sunday evening
Northern lights may brighten up the sky Saturday and Sunday evening

Looking east at dawn on Saturday, skywatchers will have the opportunity to see Jupiter and Venus make a dramatic diagonal alignment in the sky.

By Sunday morning the moon will have sunk closer to the eastern horizon and will appear wedged between Jupiter and Venus. The cosmic trio will form a striking triangle formation.

As an added bonus, there's a chance to see some northern lights Saturday and Sunday evening.

On July 12, a giant sunspot complex on the surface of the sun erupted with an X-class solar flare ten times the size of Earth. The flare unleashed a giant cloud of charged particles, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), directed squarely at Earth.

Space weather forecasters are predicting that the CME will arrive sometime around 5 a.m. Eastern Time on July 14 and produce at least a minor geomagnetic storm which may create colourful auroras in the sky.

The best time to observe auroral activity is after local nightfall until after midnight towards the northern horizon.

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