Eyes to the Sky
January 6 – 19, 2020
Sun’s New Year, dawn and dusk planets
Since the winter solstice, December 21, I have been particularly attentive to the Sun as it sets into the skyline to the southwest. Even though I know that the Sun is setting about a minute later everyday, I am impressed to notice that the location of the setting Sun has inched more westerly. By the time of Vernal Equinox, March 19, sunset will be due west. Sunset today, the 6th, is at 4:43:33pm., an increase of 15 minutes from the earliest sunset on December 8th. Picking up momentum, we will experience a 14-minute gain of afternoon sunlight by January 19, when sunset time is 4:57:28pm.
Sunrise today, 7:20:13am in the southeast, is within seconds of the latest of the year, to occur all this week. By the 19th, the Sun will rise 4 minutes earlier and, going forward to the end of January, sunrise will be about a minute earlier every morning. During this time of morning darkness, go to a dark sky location to catch sight of the wonderful Scorpion, a nighttime constellation in summer. Look southeast at least an hour before sunrise to see the whole figure of Scorpius along with red planet Mars, above on the 7th and moving closer toward the horizon everyday. Red star Antares, the heart of the Scorpion, is a bit brighter than Mars. Antares, according to H.A. Rey, is Greek for “rival of Mars.” I have also seen it described as “simulating Mars (in color).” In light polluted areas, only Antares might be visible in the southeast until a picturesque crescent moon approaches Antares and Mars on the 19th and hovers above Mars on the 20th. Look with binoculars for improved visibility.
Moving along to the evening sky, planet Venus shines above the point of sunset. As twilight deepens, winter star Fomalhaut, “mouth of the Fish,” appears to the planet’s left. At nightfall, orange Deneb Kaitos, of the faint constellation Cetus the Whale (or Sea Monster) is clearly visible to the left and above Fomalhaut. Deneb Kaitos is dimmer than Fomalhaut but it is a solitary star in this area of the sky. Again, look with binoculars if your sky is hazed over by light pollution.
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