Venus, Jupiter, Antares at dawn, Jan. 26, 2019
Venus and Jupiter in the dawn are still only 4° apart as the week begins.

Friday, January 25

• Right after dark, face east and look very high. The bright star there is Capella, the Goat Star. To the right of it, by a couple of finger-widths at arm's length, is a small, narrow triangle of 3rd and 4th magnitude stars known as "the Kids." They're not exactly eye-grabbing, but they form a never-forgotten asterism (informal star pattern) with Capella.

Saturday, January 26

• Orion is high in the southeast right after dark, and he stands highest due south around 10 p.m. Orion is the brightest of the 88 constellations, but his main pattern is surprisingly small compared to some of his dimmer neighbors. The biggest of these is Eridanus the Euphrates River just to his west, enormous but hard to trace. Dimmer Fornax the Furnace, to Eridanus's lower right, is almost as big as Orion! Even the main pattern of Lepus, the Hare cowering under Orion's feet, isn't much smaller than he is.

Sunday, January 27

• Last-quarter Moon (exact at 4:10 p.m. EST). The Moon rises around 1 a.m. tonight in dim Libra. As it climbs high, its curved edge points lower left to the spot on the horizon where Jupiter will rise around 4 a.m. and Venus about 15 minutes later (depending on your location).

Moon wanes past Antares, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn in the dawn, Jan. 29 - Feb. 2, 2019
Early risers can watch the crescent Moon wane past Antares, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.

Monday, January 28

• After dark the Great Square of Pegasus is sinking low in the west, tipped onto one corner. Look for it to the right of Mars. Meanwhile the Big Dipper is creeping up in the north-northeast, tipped up on its handle.

Tuesday, January 29

• In this dark-of-the-Moon period, use binoculars to get acquainted with the little asterisms a few degrees north of the main Hyades V pattern. (Zoom in on the View here.) I call two of these the Jumping Minnow and Dragonfly, imagining warm summer afternoons by a riverbank far separated from these icy winter nights. But Matt Wedel has a different take in his Binocular Highlight column (with chart) in the February Sky & Telescope, page 43. As in the main, more familiar part of the Hyades, this field sports a number of notable star pairs.

Wednesday, January 30

• As dawn begins to brighten on Thursday morning, Antares, Jupiter, Venus, and the waning crescent Moon form a graceful arc, 35° long, in the southeastern sky.

But the stars of this show are the Moon and Venus. They form a strikingly close bright pair, about 2° apart at the times of dawn in the Americas. Think photo opportunity!

Thursday, January 31

• After dinnertime look due east, not very high, for twinkly Regulus. Extending upper left from it is the Sickle of Leo, a backward question mark. "Leo announces spring," goes an old saying. Actually, Leo showing up in the evening announces the cold, messy back half of winter. Come spring, Leo will already be high.

• In Friday's dawn, the thinning crescent Moon hangs lower left of Venus. Look for dim Saturn a similar distance (if you're in North America) on the opposite side of the Moon from Venus, very low.

Binoculars help.

Friday, February 1

• As soon as it's fully dark, spot the bright, equilateral Winter Triangle in the southeast. Sirius is its brightest and lowest star. Betelgeuse stands above Sirius by about two fists at arm's length. To the left of their midpoint is Procyon.

And, standing 4° above Procyon is 3rd-magnitude Gomeisa, Beta Canis Minoris, the only other easy naked-eye star of Canis Minor.

Saturday, February 2

• The sky's biggest asterism — at least the biggest that's widely recognized — is the Winter Hexagon. It fills the sky toward the east and south these evenings.

Start with brilliant Sirius at its bottom. Going clockwise from there, march up through Procyon, Pollux and Castor, Menkalinan and Capella on high, down to Aldebaran, then to Rigel in Orion's foot, and back to Sirius.

Betelgeuse shines inside the Hexagon, off center.


Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an outdoor nature hobby. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential guide to astronomy.

Jumbo Pocket Sky Atlas cover
The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and hundreds of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae among them. Shown above is the Jumbo Edition for easier reading in the night. Sample chart.

Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The basic standard is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in either the original or Jumbo Edition), which shows stars to magnitude 7.6.

Next up is the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; nearly three times as many. The next up, once you know your way around, are the even larger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) and Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.

You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (meaning heavy and expensive). And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."

This Week's Planet Roundup

Jupiter on Jan. 15, 2019
Jupiter is still pretty low in very early dawn, and on January 15th the atmospheric conditions were "terrible," writes Christopher Go from the Philippines. But he was able to obtain this revealing image using a 14-inch scope. South is up. Jupiter's normally bright white Equatorial Zone has grown a tan "Equatorial Belt"! See our article Astronomers Identify Weather Cycle on Jupiter.

Mercury is out of sight in conjunction with the Sun.

Venus (magnitude –4.3) and Jupiter (magnitude –1.9) rise above the east-southeast horizon well before the first glimmer of dawn. They dominate the southeast by the time dawn begins to brighten. Every morning now they're drawing farther apart. On January 26th you'll find Jupiter 4° to Venus's right, as shown at the top of this page. By February 1st they're separated by 9°.

About 8° or 9° to the right of Jupiter, look for twinkly orange Antares. At magnitude +1.0 it's not nearly as eye-catching.

In a telescope Venus is dazzling white and slightly gibbous. Jupiter appears half again as large, but its surface brightness is some 50 times dimmer than Venus's due mostly to Jupiter's 7-times-greater distance from the illuminating Sun.

Mars (magnitude +0.8, in Pisces left of the Great Square of Pegasus) still glows high in the southwest at nightfall and sets around 11 p.m. In a telescope it's a tiny gibbous blob: 6 arcseconds from pole to pole.

Saturn is beginning to emerge low in the glow of dawn. About 30 minutes before sunrise, use binoculars to look for it just above the horizon far to the lower left of Venus.

Uranus (magnitude 5.8, at the Aries-Pisces border) is still well up in the southwest right after dark. It's visible in binoculars if you have a good finder chart (and know the constellations well enough to see where to start with the chart).

Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) is already quite low in the west-southwest right after dark.


All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Standard Time (EST) is Universal Time (UT or GMT) minus 5 hours.


Audio sky tour. Outside under the evening sky with your earbuds in place, listen to Kelly Beatty's monthly podcast tour of the heavens above. It's free.


"Rational and innocent entertainment of the highest kind."
—John Mills, 19th century Scottish manufacturer and founder of Mills Observatory, on amateur astronomy.




Image of Rod


January 25, 2019 at 11:11 am

I was out earlier from 0600-0700 EST. It was a clear sky morning here with temps -3C, much better observing conditions than during the total lunar eclipse (clear skies but winter howling and much colder) I enjoyed views of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon at 129x with a true field of view (FoV) 0.56 degrees - very nice views. This morning, Venus and Jupiter were a bit more than 3.5 degrees angular separation in Ophiuchus constellation. Some great views of Venus, Jupiter (4 Galilean moons, Jupiter many cloud bands visible), and the craters along the terminator line of the waning gibbous Moon (the Moon was in Virgo). Venus was 10x brighter than Jupiter and the Moon, 1820x brighter than Venus using the apparent magnitude scale. I could see some cloud shading on Venus too (no planetary filter used). Venus 59.41% illuminated, Jupiter 99.52% illuminated, the waning gibbous Moon 75.47% illuminated. Venus was 20" size and Jupiter 33" size. The telescope clearly shows these planetary differences. I am looking forward to Jupiter and Saturn opposition later this year (09 June for Jupiter and 08 July for Saturn). Clear skies, colder temperatures and no bugs biting is very enjoyable viewing though.

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January 25, 2019 at 7:18 pm

The Moon-Venus on January 31st is a good way to try to see Venus in the daytime if the sky is clear. The Moon will be due south at about 9am for U.S. viewers. Stand in the shadow of a building (to block the sun), and look around for the Moon. Venus should be near by. Use averted vision - look away from the Moon and view it from the corner of your eye. You can also use binoculars to find the moon and Venus, then try to find Venus with the naked eye.

If you are not sure where due south is, go out a few days earlier, scout out a building around noon, and (carefully!) move around so the building just blocks the sun. Stand in the same place at 9am on Jan 31st and look a little higher in the sky than where the Sun was.

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January 31, 2019 at 10:30 am

mary beth, misha17, great views of Venus, waning crescent Moon, and Jupiter near ecliptic this morning in Ophiuchus in Maryland. Temperature -14C, winds 280/6 knots so good viewing conditions when I was out 0530-0630 EST. I enjoyed using my 10x50 binoculars and telescope at 31x with close to 1.6 degree true field of view. A number of stars visible near Venus and Jupiter in the eyepiece as well as Jupiter with cloud bands, 4 Galilean moons. The terminator line of the Moon was a great view with earth-shine too. Great crater views.

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mary beth

January 31, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Hi Rod! You have had a very good year so far. I’m glad the conditions have been good and it will be even better as it warms up. We’ve been pretty cloudy here but I’m thoroughly enjoying all the overhead stars around midnight here. Fortunately I have a good, treeless view to the south east. I’m very much looking forward to that first glimpse of Arcturus this spring. I enjoy watching it span the sky until November. Of all the stars I feel like that one for me is my best calendar. Have you been viewing Mars?

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January 31, 2019 at 2:23 pm

mary beth, you asked: "Have you been viewing Mars?" Yes, I last viewed Mars on 25-Jan-19 near 8:00 PM EST. A note from my stargazing log 🙂 "Mars sets at 2313 EST. Very good views of Mars and resolved as a gibbous shape planet using the TeleVue 14-mm Delos. 71x with 1-degree true FoV, a number of stars visible around Mars in Pisces too - lovely view with orange-red Mars in the center FoV. This would be a good picture. Mars 88.94% illuminated. The ephemeris for Mars using Starry Night Pro Plus 8, Stellarium 0.18.2, checks well with Sky & Telescope January 2019 issue, Planetary Almanac on page 44 (16th and 31st ephemeris elements for Mars)."

Mars was about 6.4" size but at 71x, still resolved as an orange-red gibbous shape planet with various stars in the field. Mars was some 1.47 au or more from Earth when I last viewed on 25-Jan.

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