This evening three planets are visible. At dusk, aim binoculars to Mercury near the west-southwestern horizon. Above Mercury the young sunlit crescent moon will reveal craters and valleys next to dark earthshine on the lunar surface.
Bright golden Jupiter, surrounded by its four closest satellite moons, glows in the east, to the right of the Gemini Twins Castor and Pollux. The Seven Sisters lead Taurus, Bull westward. Aldebaran (Bull’s red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face).
In the east, Procyon, Little Dog, follows gigantic Orion, Hunter aiming at the Bull. The Great Orion Nebula contains newborn stars in Orion’s sword. Brilliant blue Sirius (nearby star) sparkles in Orion’s Big Dog in the southeast.
Telescopes can track the outer planets — blue-green Uranus following dim Neptune across the southwest. Cetus, Whale swims onto the southwestern horizon. Aries, Ram, chases Pegasus, Winged Horse, lower in the west.
The Royal Family swings low in the northwest. By 10 p.m. the Big Dipper rises in the northeast. Its bowl always faces Polaris, North Star. The Little Dipper’s handle is Polaris, and not visible above bright city lights. Capella guides Auriga, Charioteer, across the north. Leo, Lion crawls higher in the east.
Before midnight, bright Arcturus, Herdsman, sparkles in the east-northeast, beyond the Big Dipper’s handle. Ruddy Mars rises in the east above Spica in Virgo. Orion’s Big Dog trots across the south trailed by the Pups.
Jupiter sets in the northwest by 5:15 a.m. Mars brightens 5 degrees above Spica high in the south. Silver Saturn rises in the southeast, in Libra, about 1:30 a.m. Brilliant Venus, Morning Star, is a beacon rising in the southeast in morning twilight. The top of the Sagittarian Teapot emerges above the southeastern horizon.
Huge Scorpius crawls higher in the southeast. Ruddy Antares is the red heart beating in the Scorpion’s torso. Vega, in Lyra the Harp, twinkles in the northeast.The Big Dipper hangs in the north. Arcturus lies overhead. The Lion crawls westward.
At dusk, the young moon floats 3 degrees above Uranus in the southwest.
First quarter moon occurs 2:22 p.m. Tonight the moon floats below the Seven Sisters cluster.
• Event: Southern Cross Astros will hold a First Quarter Moon Star Party, 7-10 p.m., Fruit & Spice Park, 24801 SW 187th Ave., Homestead. Free Family Night includes campfire, pet a fluffy white Arctic wolf, tram rides through the Park. SCAS hi-tech equipment will show dazzling winter skies from the park’s very dark outback. 305-247-5727.
Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org