StarDate magazine
The moon, Mars and a star called Aldebaran will put on a skywatching show before dawn on July 26 and July 27.
updated 7/26/2011 4:58:24 PM ET 2011-07-26T20:58:24

The moon, Mars and a bright star called Aldebaran are putting on a great skywatching show this week.

The action occurs in the predawn hours of Wednesday, according to the editors of StarDate magazine.

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The moon will shine next to Mars in the east an hour before dawn on Wednesday, with Aldebaran — the bright star known as the eye of Taurus (the bull) — also in the scene. The sky map here of the moon, Aldebaran and Mars shows how the three objects will appear throughout this week.

Both Mars and Aldebaran glow orange, but right now the star is about twice as bright as Mars, StarDate's editors said.

Those orange splashes of color are rare in a nighttime sky dominated by shades of white, black and gray. As a star, Aldebaran produces its own glow. It shines orange because its surface is thousands of degrees cooler than that of our own yellow sun.

Other prominent reddish-orange stars include Antares (whose name means "rival of Mars"), which shines brightest on July and August evenings, and Betelgeuse, which is found in the constellation Orion and lights up the winter sky, according to StarDate.

In contrast to stars, Mars doesn’t generate any light on its own. Instead, it shines by reflecting sunlight, just like the moon.

The light strikes a surface boasting various shades of orange, yellow, gray and black. Most of Mars' oranges and yellows are produced by fine-grained dust that contains a lot of iron oxide, better known as rust.

As Mars grows brighter later in the year, its color will appear to grow more intense, according to StarDate. By the end of the year, the alien world will really be earning its "Red Planet" moniker, providing one of the most vivid splashes of color in the night sky.

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