Brilliant Venus, our closest sunlit planet, glows 6 degrees above the setting sun, in Sagittarius. Jupiter becomes opposite the sun and closest to Earth (391 million miles distant) at 4 p.m. The King of the Planets, shining its brightest, will not be that close to Earth again until 2020. At sunset Jupiter rises in the east, right of the Gemini Twins, and sets in the west-northwest at dawn. More than 1000 Earths could fit inside Jupiter. Four closest satellite moons dance around the huge, banded planet: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Spectacular in telescopes! Dim blue Neptune hugs the southwestern horizon. Blue-green Uranus sails across the southwest in Pisces, Fish. About midnight, ruddy Mars rises in the east in Virgo.
First quarter moon occurs 10:39 p.m.
Aim telescopes to Europa’s tiny black shadow dot that floats across Jupiter 7-9:40 p.m.
Near the setting sun, Venus, the “Evening Star” takes her final bow on the western stage. A bright moon floats near the Seven Sisters (Pleiades star cluster). Overhead, Taurus, Bull escapes Orion, Hunter, in the east. Ruddy Aldebaran (Bull’s red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face). Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius (nearby star) sparkles in Orion’s Big Dog in the southeast.
The Gemini Twins Castor and Pollux escort Jupiter to the Zenith. The dim Beehive cluster shimmers below the Twins. Capella guides Auriga, Charioteer, across the north. Aries, Ram, chases Pegasus, Winged Horse, westward. The Royal Family swings into the northwest. The Northern Cross stands on the northwestern horizon. Late evening Leo, Lion, climbs higher in the east. The Big Dipper rises in the northeast.
Four morning planets are visible. Silver Saturn rises in Libra around 2:30 a.m. in the southeast. Ruddy Mars brightens overhead in Virgo. By 6 a.m. the Big Dipper hangs in the north. Bright Arcturus, Herdsman, sparkles beyond the Dipper’s handle. Leo, Lion crawls westward. Huge Scorpius climbs above the southeastern horizon. Antares (red heart) beats in the Scorpion’s torso. Venus glows in early dawn low in the east.
Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org