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Moon, Mars, Venus, and the Pleiades -- an early morning treat

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(Read caption) Use this chart to help you spot the key players in this early-morning celestial display.

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A stellar reward is coming up this weekend if you're an early bird and the weather cooperates.

Roughly 45 minutes before sunrise on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, the moon will share the same general patch of the eastern sky with Mars, Venus, Mercury, and the Pleiades (or Seven Sisters).  Yeah, it's tough getting up that early on a weekend. But if the eastern skies are clear, put on the coffee pot and give it a shot.

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On the 19th, the Moon, Venus, and Mars will form a tight group. On the 20th, the moon is roughly midway between those two planets as it sidles toward Mercury. And on the 21st, the moon and Mercury are close partners.

The folks over at Sky and Telescope magazine suggest using binoculars to pick out the Seven Sisters; the sky will be getting bright enough to wash them out to the naked eye. Binoculars will help with Mercury as well.

While you're at it, use the binoculars to get a look at Earth's shine faintly lighting the shaded part of the lunar surface.

Along with barbecues, hikes, or some sand between the toes, this is a delightful way to welcome summer! And once it's over, you can tumble back into the sack if you still feel sleep-deprived.