Last quarter moon occurs 2:28 p.m. The moon rises after midnight.
By nightfall brilliant Venus glows diamond-like high in the southwest. Our closest planet sets before mid-evening. Dim blue Neptune in Aquarius follows Capricornus, Sea Goat, across the south. Fomalhaut twinkles below Neptune. Fomalhaut is 25 light years from Earth, has two companion stars, and has twice the mass of our sun. Blue-green Uranus drifts toward the south in Pisces, Fish. Aries, Ram, chases Pegasus, Winged Horse, to the Zenith. The delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades cluster) lead Taurus, Bull, higher in the east. Aldebaran (red giant star) the Bull's red eye winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull's face).
Bright Capella leads the Charioteer in Auriga, higher in the northeast. King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, daughter Andromeda and Perseus reign in the north. Vega leads the vast Summer Triangle across the northwest. Cygnus, Swan, becomes the Northern Cross. Bright Jupiter glows in the east below the Gemini Twins. The dim Beehive cluster twinkles left of Jupiter. Mid-evening, Orion, Hunter, awakens on the eastern horizon. Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. Blue Sirius sparkles in Orion's Big Dog low in the southeast.
Before 5:30 a.m. aim optical equipment to the southeast. Brighter Mercury is .08 degrees above silver Saturn. Comet Ison cruises 7 degrees below the planetary pair. Spica, in Virgo, follows Corvus, Crow higher in the southeast.
Saturn and Mercury dance .07 degrees apart on the southeastern horizon.
Before 6 a.m. in the east, Leo, Lion, climbs toward the Zenith. The waning moon floats below ruddy Mars. The Big Dipper hangs in the north. Its bowl always faces Polaris, North Star. Arcturus, Herdsman, sparkles in the east. Westbound Jupiter glows below the Gemini Twins. Sirius and Orion's Big Dog lie in the southwest. Orion, Hunter, slips onto the western horizon.
About 2 p.m. Comet Ison races 725,000 miles above the scorching solar surface. The comet may survive and produce a long brilliant tail or become swallowed by the sun's gravity.
Before 6 a.m. a celestial line-up occurs in the southeast: Spica leads the old moon above Saturn and brighter Mercury.
Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org