Categories: Sky Reports
This week we’ll recap what the moon and planets are doing. Two planets are in the evening sky and two are in the morning.
Brightest of all is Venus, which is becoming very slightly easier to see day by day. It’s presently on the far side of the sun where it’s only 20° to the left of the sun in angular measure, so it’s low when darkness falls and it sets an hour and a half after the sun. Look low in the west-northwest during evening twilight. Venus is increasing its angular separation from the sun by only 1° every 5 days, so each day it sets a minute later and becomes slightly easier to see. Telescopically it’s nearly full and it’s tiny. Its great brightness will help you spot it while the sky is still light.
Mars is about 20° to the upper left of Venus (remember that the width of your fist held at arm’s length is 10°), and it’s much fainter. Mars is nearly in line with Castor and Pollux, the heads of Gemini the twins, and it’s comparable in brightness to them; from right to left they are Castor, Pollux, Mars.
Jupiter and Saturn rise in the northeast roughly 2 hours after midnight and by sunrise they’re high in the east. Jupiter is by far the brightest object in the morning sky (except the moon) while Saturn is 1/15 as bright (still equal to the brightest stars) and is 20° east of Jupiter. They make a nice pair, and this year they’re still fairly close to each other.
The moon joins Jupiter and Saturn on the 31st and 1st. On the 1st it’s 5° below Jupiter and you might fit both in the field of view of wide-angle binoculars.
We can’t predict so far in advance, but the nova in Cassiopeia that brightened a few weeks ago, to everyone astonishment, is probably still within the range of binoculars. You’ll need a good star chart or two to pick it out among the many stars of the Milky Way. I recommend Googling “nova Cassiopeia” for the latest info and charts plus using a star charting app (which all stargazers should have – there are several to choose from). The best time to look is late in the morning, after 2 a.m., when Cassiopeia has risen higher. The fun is that we’ll all learn together what it’s up to.
Photo Credit: Gary Seronik
The Sky Report is presented as a public service by the Stellar Vista Observatory, a nonprofit organization based in Kanab, Utah, which provides opportunities for people to observe, appreciate, and comprehend our starry night sky. Additional information is at www.stellarvistaobservatory.org. Send questions and comments to