Eyes to the Sky
January 24 – February 4, 2022
Halfway to spring, be mesmerized by winter stars, captivated by crescent moon, planets
Winter skies are the most inviting to naked eye stargazers, and for including children when the brightest stars in the heavens appear in early evening, before bedtime.
The mighty constellation, Orion the Hunter
, floats above the southeast horizon as darkness gathers, by about 6pm. Fiercely twinkling Sirius the Dog Star rises around 5:30pm and appears above obstructed views by 6:30pm. Sirius, the brightest star in Earth’s skies, throws off magnificent flashes of full-spectrum colors. The constellation Canis major, aka the Great Dog, and Orion trace an arc from east-southeast to west-southwest, where they set at about 1:30am. See the brightest stars arrive in the south by about 9pm and over the Hudson River during the nighttime hours.
In order of magnitude, most brilliant first, from the top 11 naked eye stars visible from Earth:
Sirius -1.47 magnitude bluish
Rigel 0.15m bluish-white
Procyon 0.35 yellowish-white
Betelgeuse 0.43m reddish
The all night, all bright stars deserved first billing: now, to turn back the clock to see the compelling, albeit fleeting, show that begins at dusk above the opposite skyline, in the southwest.
Evening stargazing truly begins at about 5:20pm when the southwestern sky at twilight is likely to be pastel pink. Planet Jupiter, -2.06 magnitude, appears as a star-like point of light 20 degrees above the horizon. It is challenging to spot; it is invisible until searched for, sure to intrigue children. The thrill comes when the planet’s light shines through the pink or blue atmosphere and makes contact with our eyes. By 6 o’clock, Jupiter is very bright. With an unobstructed view to the horizon, Jupiter sets by 7:30 tonight and at around 7pm as February begins – soon to vanish behind the Sun. The first crescent, waxing moon joins Jupiter on February 2 and 3.
Groundhog Day, February 2, marks the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.
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