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Image: Sky map of Saturn and the moon on Jan. 6, 2013.
Starry Night Software
This sky map shows the location of Saturn and the moon in the night sky at 3 a.m. local time on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, for observers at mid-northern latitudes.
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updated 1/5/2013 1:01:41 PM ET 2013-01-05T18:01:41

Skywatchers who are out and about after 3 a.m. local time Sunday, Jan. 6 will have an interesting celestial array to admire. Three heavenly bodies will come together to form a stretched-out and inverted triangle low in the east-southeast sky. 

The planet Saturn will shine sedately with a yellowish-white glow well to the left of the moon, which will be a waning crescent about 36 percent illuminated. Hovering well above and to the right of the moon will be the bright bluish star Spica, in the zodiacal constellation of Virgo. 

The moon appears to pass Spica every month, but over the past couple of years Saturn has been relatively nearby too. So we have been calling this monthly assemblage tin the night sky the "Saturn Triangle."

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This weekend, the Saturn Triangle will be isosceles — that is, possessing two sides of equal length. The moon will be 10 degrees away from both Saturn and Spica in the sky. (Your clenched fist held at arm's length measures roughly 10 degrees.)

The side of the triangle from Saturn to Spica (the base) will measure a much longer 18 degrees. The moon will mark the vertex angle.

By around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, just as dawn is about to break, the trio will have moved to a point about one-third up in the sky toward the south-southeast.  But the appearance of this celestial triangle will also have changed.  

Saturn is currently 935 million miles from Earth and will not change its position noticeably relative to the background stars during the course of a single night.

But the moon is only 229,800 miles away and as a result will shift its position to the east during the course of the night. In fact, the moon appears to move east against the background stars at roughly its own apparent width (0.5 degrees) per hour. 

So, only 2.5 hours after the triangle’s first appearance, the moon will have appeared to move about 1.25 degrees farther away from Spica, placing it noticeably closer to Saturn.

If you have a telescope, check out Saturn's rings. Back in the late summer of 2009, Saturn’s rings were all but invisible to us because they were turned nearly edge-on toward Earth.  Now, however, they are tilted 19 degrees toward us and are readily seen with magnifications of 30 power and up.

Editor's note: If you snap an amazing photo of Saturn and the moon, or any other night sky view, and would like to share it with SPACE.com, send images and comments, including name, location and equipment used to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for TheNew YorkTimesand other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.Follow SPACE.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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