During the whole period of this post, civil twilight begins just half an hour before sun-up. For a worthy challenge, look above Venus with a steady gaze to find the golden point of light that is the star Arcturus. Then, search for Jupiter below the Morning Star, on a shallow, left slanting diagonal. From Sunday, the 30th, through January 4, a winsome crescent moon joins the bright planets in the soft blue dawn.
The dark of night extends into morning most noticeably from today through mid-January: in our neighborhood, the Sun rises around 7:20am. It is the ideal time to observe planet Venus, the Morning Star, shining brightly high in the southeast as late as 7am.
Add many more celestial delights to this waking dream by observing earlier, between 45 minutes and an hour before sunrise, from a lookout with an unobstructed view to the southeast horizon. Below and left of Jupiter, relatively faint planet Mercury twinkles close above the skyline, while to the right of Mercury red star Antares, also pale in the dawn light, rises into the winter morning sky. The threesome form a right-angled triangle. My heart stirs at the sight of Antares, the heart star of Scorpius the Scorpion. The great Scorpion of balmy summer evenings has appeared in the chill morning. Consider that the Scorpion, a feared arachnid, has a heart, a red giant star at its heart! Binoculars will help locate Mercury and Antares.
There is magic in the movement of Sirius, the Dog Star, on New Year’s Eve. The brightest star in northern skies and hallmark of the winter season, Sirius marks the shoulder of Canis major, the Greater Dog, which is visible trailing Orion the Hunter most of the night. The brilliant star rises in the east-southeast around 7pm and sets in the southwest around 5am. At midnight (or thereabouts) on New Year’s eve, Sirius reaches culmination: the highest point in the arc it traces between rising and setting. The star appears about 30 degrees above the horizon, due south.
Another occasion to ring in the New Year comes with the Quadrantid meteor shower, predicted to peak Thursday night, January 3 until dawn on Friday the 4th. For details click here.
Welcome winter with open eyes, eyes to the sky, night and day.
by Judy Isacoff
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