Sun rises at 6:45am
Sun sets at 5:51pm
Moon phase: second quarter, waxing gibbous
Moon rises at 2:31pm, on Sunday afternoon
Moonset: 2:31am, Sunday morning
Venus and Mars
Our evening skies continue to grab our attention with the brilliant Venus and her friend, the subdued and red-faced Mars. They are currently found visiting the constellation of Aquarius, high in the southwest sky after sunset, and creeping down to the horizon by about 9:15pm. As Venus sets, look just to the right to see the Great Square of Pegasus, which will begin to set around 10:30 and be fully gone by 11:45.
Meanwhile, Jupiter is rising late, or very early, depending on how you think about it. Look for our solar system’s largest planet to rise in the east around 12:30am. Jupiter is currently in the constellation of Virgo and is snuggling pretty close to the bright star Spica. Not too far away – directly to Jupiter’s left – is the very bright star Arcturus.
The winter circle graces our skies at this time of the year and it’s a wonderful opportunity to apply the skill of star hopping which we learned about last week. Anytime from around 8:00pm to 3:30am is a good time to look for the bright circle of stars and their corresponding constellations.
To star-hop the winter circle, start with a star you know and can find, such as Betelgeuse which is in the easy-to-find constellation of Orion (three stars in a row are his belt, remember?). Betelgeuse is pronounced “Beetle Juice” – the inspiration for the offbeat movie starring Michael Keaton – but for our purposes, it’s just Betelgeuse, a bright star located at the shoulder of the hunter, Orion.
Around Betelgeuse, you can trace a circle, or hexagon-shape if you prefer, that is prominent in our sky most of the night at this time of year. Let’s say you’re out star-gazing around 10:30 Saturday night. At that time, Betelgeuse will be more or less directly overhead. Drop down to Orion’s foot, the bright star Rigel. From there, travel around Betelgeuse in a clockwise direction, landing on Sirius in the constellation Canis Major, then around to Procyon in Canis Minor, and then to Castor and Pollux, the heads of the twins in Gemini. Keep going and you should be across from Sirius, on the bright star Capella in the constellation Auriga and, finally, there is Aldebaron in the constellation Taurus.
The gibbous moon sits outside the winter circle this weekend, admiring from afar, as are we.
Thank you for keeping up with the Night Sky articles. If you are out later on in the week, each star rises about four minutes earlier each day than written here, and the moon rises 50 minutes later. Night Sky is researched and compiled by Lisa Davis-Burnett. Earthsky.org is a key resource for information and images. Questions or comments? Email [email protected]