Twilight challenge: the planet-conjunction finale! Jupiter and Saturn are becoming ever harder to pick up low in bright twilight, but bring those binoculars on Saturday Jan. 9th. Because then they'll be three! Mercury is emerging to join them. It will pass by them for a couple more days.
Jupiter and Saturn remain close together low in the southwest in twilight, though they're widening every day. They'll sink away into the sunset after New Year's.
Bright Jupiter and Saturn are almost as close together now as modest, 3rd-magnitude Alpha and Beta Capricorni above them. Wait for full dark to catch the faint stars.
Whenever Fomalhaut is "southing" (crossing the meridian due south), the first stars of Orion are just about to rise above the east horizon. And, the Pointers of the Big Dipper stand upright low due north, straight below Polaris.
After dark this week, Capella in the northeast. Look for the Pleiades three fists to Capella's right. After dark this week, Capella sparkles in the northeast. Look for the Pleiades about three fists to Capella's right. Early signs of winter constellations!
Full Moon and Mars for Halloween: The Moon rises in the east about a half hour after sunset on Saturday the 31st, depending on your location. That bright orange dot off to its upper right is Mars.
Mars comes to opposition on October 13th. Although it was closest to Earth on the 6th, it is still at virtually the same distance all week, remaining 22.5 to 22.0 arcseconds in apparent diameter. This is bigger than we will see it again until September 2035.
Mars is closer this week than it will be until 2035! The Moon pairs up closely with Mars on Friday the 2nd — and occults Mars for parts of South America. Jupiter and Saturn, meanwhile, remain at their highest and best right around nightfall, lower in the south.
The Moon waxes through first quarter to gibbous this week, passing Jupiter and Saturn along the way. And by the end of twilight, Jupiter-bright Mars glares low in the east. It's big, bold, and almost at opposition!
Jupiter and Saturn continue shining nearly level in the south at dusk. Meanwhile, the stars show the changing of the seasons: Just after nightfall, Cassiopeia has climbed higher in the northeast than the Big Dipper has sunk in the northwest.
Vega passes the zenith in late twilight. Vega is bigger, hotter, and 50 times brighter than our Sun. But at a distance of 25 light-years, it's 1.6 million times farther away. Jupiter and Saturn still dominate the south at dusk. And fiery Mars, close and almost Jupiter-bright, rises in the east around the end of twilight. It's at its highest and telescopic best in the south around 3 a.m. daylight-saving time.
Betelgeuse is dimming again. . . somewhat. After its historic fade last winter to magnitude +1.6, Orion's red supergiant Betelgeuse fully recovered, to +0.4, before it disappeared into the sunset for the season. But now as it emerges low in the east before dawn, it seems to have faded back…