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Skywatch: Look for the earliest sunsets this week

The earliest sunsets of the year arrive this week, despite the fact that we're still a few weeks away from the shortest days.
Mercury & Mars Meet Up

We’re starting the week with the chance to catch two planets in the morning sky. Mercury & Mars will be in the eastern sky before sunrise this week.

You’ll need a clear view of the horizon to see mercury which will be lower in the sky. Just above and right of it will hang Mars shining with a reddish hue.

First Quarter Moon

The First Quarter Moon will arrive on Wednesday morning at 1:58 a.m. That means you’ll be able to see the half-moon Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

Farthest First Quarter

Because the moon’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle, it’s an ellipse, there are times when it’s closer to the Earth & times when it’s farther away.

This month’s First Quarter Moon will coincide with the apogee or time when the moon is farthest away from Earth. At about 11:08 Wednesday night the moon will be 251,311 miles from Earth making it the “farthest First Quarter of 2019”.

Earliest Sunsets

We’ll also welcome the earliest sunsets of the year this week (and early next week). The shortest day of the year is a couple of weeks from now but the earliest sunsets happen around this time of year because of how long the day is.

We measure the day to be 24 hours long but if you defined a day to be the time between two successive “solar noons” it would seldom be an exact 24 hours. As a result, we’ll see our earliest sunset on Saturday evening when, according to sunrise_sunset.org, it sets at 5:06 and 46 seconds in the evening. Happy hunting!