Wednesday morning January 30th, at sunrise, the 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be within 2-3o from the planet Jupiter. Venus is a few more degrees further east and the Moon will be in conjunction with Venus on the 31st.
If the morning skies are clear and the temperature is tolerable go out before sunrise local time and look toward the east. The two brightest stellar objects are the planets Venus (brightest) and Jupiter. A few degrees from Jupiter is the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. Dwarf Planet Ceres is also in this part of the sky but it is too dim to be seen with the unaided eye. As the graphic shows this is also near the Milky Way but seeing that would require much darker skies than many of us live under.
Both planets are in motion as they orbit the Sun following their respective orbital path. As an inner planet and much closer to the Sun Venus moves more quickly than Jupiter so as days pass Venus will noticeable move more so than Jupiter. Venus was at its western elongation last month and now Venus is in the part of its orbit where it is moving eastward toward the Sun. As Venus moves in that direction Venus will catch up to and then pass Jupiter, coming the closest on January 23rd.
The animated graphic is set for 1-day intervals from January 15th to January 31st.
For comparison Venus moves 1.6o each day while Jupiter moves 0.083o each day. The Earth is also in motion and moves about 1.0o each day. So as the Earth moves the sky appears to move toward the west and as this happens Saturn comes into view toward the end of January. The waning crescent Moon shows up also at the end of the month.
Thursday morning January 3rd the 27.25-day old thin waning crescent Moon will be within 3-4o from the outer planet Jupiter. The two will easily within the field of view of binoculars. Jupiter is about 5-6o from the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion, the reddish star Antares.
Sunday morning December 30th the 23-day old waning crescent Moon (apparent magnitude -11.76) will be 5-6o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Both the Moon and Spica (apparent magnitude 0.96) will fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
Rising about an hour after the Moon and Spica is another pair of celestial objects, the hard to miss Venus (apparent magnitude -4.48) is within 2-3o from the Dwarf Planet Ceres (apparent magnitude 8.0). Both of these will easily fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
Wait about an hour, depending on your eastern horizon, and the planet Jupiter (apparent magnitude -1.8) will be about 5-6o from the reddish star Antares (apparent magnitude 1.0) in the constellation of Scorpius the Scorpion. And they will be high enough above the horizon to be more visible. Both Jupiter and Antares will fit within the field of view of binoculars.
(The animated graphic is set to 1-day intervals.)
In addition to the Moon moving along in its orbit the Earth is also moving eastward along its orbit around the Sun. As the Earth revolves the sky shifts toward the west gradually moving the stars closer to the western horizon. Even the planets gradually shift toward the western horizon and out of sight.
On Tuesday November 6th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach its orbital position known as greatest eastern elongation. At that moment Mercury, the Sun, and the Earth, would be arranged in something close to approximating a right angle as this graphic shows.
From our perspective the orbits of Mercury and Venus appear to move from one side of the Sun to the other – from superior conjunction, behind the Sun, out to the left (east) from the Sun to eastern elongation, then reverse and move westward through (inferior conjunction) between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun (superior conjunction) and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!
Currently Mercury is visible over the western horizon at sunset local time. Joining Mercury to the right (west) is the planet Jupiter, and further east the planet Saturn, and not shown in this graphic but is there over the southeastern horizon the planet Mars. A few degrees to the left (east) from Mercury is the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.
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