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Sure it's cold. But the skies should be fairly clear this week, making it a good week to step outside after dinner and have a look as the moon passes through one of the most beautiful regions of the winter sky.

Last night, the waxing gibbous moon drifted past Mars. The Red Planet hung just below the moon, high overhead, as my wife and daughter and I got out of the movies around 10 p.m. and faced south. NASA's twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity are now beginning their third year roaming the planet and sending back data and images.

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By tonight, the moon will have moved a little farther east in its orbit, passing through the realm of the Pleiades, a cluster of relatively young stars about 415 light years from Earth. Look a bit to the right of the moon. With good eyesight, most people can see six or seven of the stars without magnification, although the bright moon may make that more difficult tonight. Come back to it in a few days. With binoculars, many more stars of the cluster become visible. A telescope reveals hundreds. And you can still see Mars tonight, just below and to the right of the moon as you face south. The similarly bright, reddish star below and to the LEFT of the moon is Aldebaran, the eye of the "Bull" in the constellation Taurus. It is about 72 light years from Earth.

Each night this week, the moon will move a bit farther east, passing above the bright stars in the familiar winter constellation Orion, identifiable by its trio of three stars in a line, which form Orion's belt.

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By Friday night, if you face the east in the evening, the moon will stand just below Castor and Pollux, which form the heads of the twins in Gemini. And just below the moon will be yellowish Saturn, where NASA's Cassini spacecraft continues to orbit and send back spectacular images.

So, go look. And take the kids.

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