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Jimmy Westlake's 2011 cosmic calendar of events

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The total lunar eclipse visible from Colorado on Dec. 10, 2011, will be visible up to, but not including, totality. In this series of images, the moon is shown before, during and after totality Dec. 21, 2010. Jimmy Westlake/courtesy

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During the first three weeks of May, the planets Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter will cluster in our predawn sky for some spectacular groupings. In August 2010, a similar gathering of planets graced our evening sky. Seen in this image are the crescent moon and the bright planet Venus, with Mars to Venus' upper left and Saturn to its right. Jimmy Westlake/courtesy

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On Oct. 7 and 8, the Draconid Meteor Shower could burst forth with a strong display of several hundred meteors per hour. The last time we enjoyed such a spectacle was in November 2001 when the Leonid Meteor Shower became a meteor storm of more than 1000 meteors per hour. One bright and colorful Leonid meteor was captured in this image as it burned up high in Earth's atmosphere. Jimmy Westlake/courtesy

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In June 2010, the brilliant evening star Venus slipped past the Beehive star cluster, as seen in this image. A similar spectacle is in store for us Oct. 1 when the red planet Mars will pass through the swarming stars of the Beehive. Jimmy Westlake/courtesy

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In March, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft will become the first to orbit the sizzling innermost planet, Mercury. From orbit, MESSENGER will map the surface of Mercury and study the space environment around it. NASA/courtesy

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When NASA's Dawn spacecraft arrives at the asteroid Vesta in August, our eyes will be opened to this mysterious world for the first time. After orbiting Vesta for a year, Dawn will move on to the dwarf planet Ceres and shed light on the dawn of our solar system. NASA/courtesy

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