Consider a planetarium program to help you plan your observations. There are many commercial products available; an excellent program (STELLARIUM) is available free at http://www.stellarium.org/.
The winter constellation Orion is appearing in the early night sky in the east, and is high in the south about midnight. With binoculars (or with just your eyes in a very dark site, like the first photo), can you see the “S” wrapped around Mintaka and Alnilam, the two westernmost stars in Orion’s “belt”?
Orion, as seen by just your eyes at a dark site, or with low-power binoculars …
Zooming in on Orion’s ‘belt’ with binoculars (can you see the ‘S’?) …
This is called an asterism, a small group of stars forming a recognizable pattern. Are you interested in other asterisms? The Astronomical League (AL) offers a self-directed program (free to SCAS members) to learn about asterisms, one of many observing programs that AL offers and which we will be discussing at the January 17th membership meeting.
Last-quarter Moon at 2:49 a.m. MST. Before sunrise, look way down to the left (east) to see Venus, Jupiter, and then Mercury.
Mercury (in Ophiuchus)
Mercury will again present itself in the southeastern sky about 45 minutes before dawn this week. Look well to the lower left (east) of Venus (and Jupiter is above Mercury – see the following photo from 12/22/2018).
Venus (in Libra)
Venus is very bright (magnitude -4.8), rising a couple of hours before sunrise in the east-southeast. Spica (in Virgo) is the much dimmer star to its upper right (west). (Telescope tip: To view the crescent Venus without the glare, wait until the planet is high in the blue sky. Watch out for the Sun!)
Mars (in Pisces)
Mars is in its best viewing position in the south about just after dark (under the Great Square of Pegasus) – it sets around midnight.
Jupiter (in Ophiuchus)
Look for Jupiter passing by Mercury low in the pre-dawn sky.
Saturn (in Sagittarius)
The ringed planet is now lost in the glare of the sunset.
Uranus (in Aries/Pisces)
Look in the south just after dark. Check out the Sky & Telescope finder chart noted below. (Uranus is easily visible with quality binoculars.)
Neptune (in Aquarius)
Look in the southwest just after dark. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune may be found at http://wwwcdn.skyandtelescope.com/wp-content/uploads/WEB_UrNep18.pdf.
SCAS UPCOMING EVENTS
The next Membership Meeting will be on Thursday, January 17th, at 6:30 p.m. in the Bret Kelly B conference room at the Rawlings Public Library. There will be a presentation on lunar eclipses (getting ready for the total lunar eclipse on January 20th!!!), followed by a discussion regarding free, self-directed programs offered by the Astronomical League.
FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION REGARDING SCAS ACTIVITIES, REFER TO THE SCAS WEBSITE AT http://www.scaspueblo.com/CalendarMain.html.
Pueblo West, Colorado