On its annual trip around the sun, at 2 a.m. Earth cruises closest to our nearest star 91.4 million miles distant.
In the predawn, some Quadrantid Meteors may continue radiating from an area near Arcturus sparkling high in the east. By 6 a.m., the Big Dipper hangs in the north. Its bowl always faces Polaris, the North Star. Bright Jupiter leads Leo, the Lion, westward. The Gemini Twins drift across the northwest. The full moon floats below the Twins.
Capella leads Auriga, the Charioteer, low in the northwest. The Royal Family rests on the northern horizon. Procyon, Little Dog, lies in the west. Cetus, the Whale, swims across the southwest. Corvus, the Crow, flies across the south high above Omega Centauri — a compact star cluster packed with thousands of stars. Spica twinkles in the southeast, in Virgo, the Spring Maiden, followed by the stars of Libra. Silver Saturn leads huge Scorpius above the southeastern horizon. Ruddy Antares, red heart, beats in the Scorpion’s torso. Bright Vega, in Lyra the Harp, has traveled around Polaris and now appears in the northeast.
The Frost Moon is full at 11:53 p.m. and rises in the east at dusk.
Tonight the bright moon floats to the right of the dim Beehive star cluster in Cancer, the Crab.
At dusk, Mercury rises 1.1 degree below brilliant Venus low in the southwest. Great view in binoculars! Mars lingers in the southwest. Dim blue Neptune sails lower in the southwest. Fomalhaut twinkles below Neptune. Blue-green Uranus drifts into the southwest in Pisces, the Fish.
Cetus, the Whale, swims across the southwest. Aries, the Ram, chases Pegasus, the Winged Horse, lower in the west. The Northern Cross remains above the northwestern horizon. The Royal Family drifts toward the northwest. Capella guides Auriga, Charioteer, into the north. The delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades cluster) lead Taurus, the Bull, to the zenith. Ruddy Aldebaran, a red giant star (Bull’s red eye), winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face). The Gemini Twins climb higher in the northeast. Orion, the Hunter, strides higher in the east in pursuit of the Bull. Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius sparkles in Orion’s Big Dog in the southeast.
In the late evening, the moon floats 5 degrees from bright Jupiter and Leo, the Lion, in the east. The Big Dipper appears in the northeast.
By nightfall Mars drifts about 20 degrees above Venus and Mercury, dancing 0.6 degrees apart low in the southwest. Superb view in optical equipment.
The Southern Cross Astros will hold Comet Watches from 8-10:30 p.m. every Saturday (weather permitting) this month at Bill Sadowski Park on Southwest 176th Street at 79th Avenue. Comet Lovejoy cruises closest to Earth 44 million miles distant. The northbound greenish comet will pass 12 degrees lower right of Aldebaran in Taurus.
Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org