By nightfall aim binoculars to Mercury, 3 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon. The “first rock from the sun” will rise higher the next two weeks. Bright Jupiter “King of the planets” dominates the night sky in Gemini. Blue-green Uranus, in Pisces the Fish, follows dim blue Neptune, in Aquarius across the southwest. They set late evening.
Before midnight, Mars rises in the east in Virgo. Aries, Ram, chases Pegasus (Winged Horse) lower in the west. The Royal Family swings into the northwest on their nightly trip around the North Star. Bright Capella leads Auriga, the five-sided Charioteer, high across the north. Capella is a quadruple star system 42 light years from Earth. They revolve around each other every 3 1/2 months.
The delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades cluster) lead Taurus, Bull overhead. Aldebaran (Bull’s red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face). The Gemini Twins Castor and Pollux glide higher in the northeast, left of Jupiter. The dim Beehive cluster shimmers below the Twins.
Gigantic Orion, Hunter, strides higher in the east, in pursuit of the Bull. In Orion’s sword, telescopes reveal the intriguing Orion’s Nebula, a huge cloud where stars are born. Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius sparkles in Orion’s Big Dog trotting on its hind legs in the southeast.
Leo, Lion crawls over the eastern horizon by late evening. The Big Dipper rises in the northeast. Its bowl always faces Polaris, North Star. The tip of the Little Dipper’s handle is Polaris.
At 1 a.m. the waning moon rises 4 degrees right of Mars. Silver Saturn appears in the southeast, in Libra, about 1:30 a.m. Jupiter reaches the northwestern horizon before dawn, as brilliant Venus appears on the eastern horizon.
Huge Scorpius clears the southeastern horizon. Ruddy Antares, red heart, beats in the Scorpion’s torso. Bright Arcturus, Herdsman, sparkles in the east. The Big Dipper hangs in the north. Vega, in Lyra, Harp, appears low in the northeast. Mars follows the Lion westward.
Last quarter moon occurs at 12:19 a.m.
In the predawn, the waning crescent moon nudges silver Saturn in the south.
Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org