Jupiter, Saturn and Mars Span January Evenings
Three planets are currently above the horizon in the early evening sky about an hour after sunset. Jupiter, Saturn and Mars span the sky for the remainder of January and the moon can assist the casual stargazer in locating each planet.
The eastern sky sparkles with brilliant winter stars, but the planet Jupiter absolutely dominates the scene. The giant planet is presently outshining Sirius, which is usually the brightest nighttime star at this time of year. Jupiter radiates at a -2.7 magnitude, which is more than 3 times brighter than Sirius. Sirius is 40 degrees (4 fists) to the lower right of Jupiter. Do you notice that Sirius twinkles but Jupiter does not?
On Wednesday, January 23, look east to see the moon only 8 degrees away from Saturn. If you have access to a small telescope, make sure to check out the rings of Saturn, still at its finest viewing in many years. Also, tonight Saturn sits just above the bright red star of Aldebaran. Saturn appears a pale yellowish-white and Aldebaren a pale red. On Thursday, January 24, the moon will be the same distance from Saturn but on the other side of the planet as it heads toward Jupiter.
Saturday, January 26, the moon, just two days from being full, will pause 4 degrees to Jupiter's lower left in the early evening. Take a peek at the moon throughout the night to see it pull away from Jupiter. The moon is full on Monday, January 28. On this evening, search out the twin stars Pollux and Castor as they shine 17- 22 degrees above the Full Wolf Moon.
The three planets, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter span 87 degrees across the evening sky, from SW to E. on Wednesday, January 30. Mars currently at 1st magnitude is literally outshone by the two brighter planets Saturn and Jupiter. Mars can be found sitting all alone, a third of the way up in the SW at dusk.
The cold, crisp, evening air in January always seems to make the stars appear clearer and brighter. Bundle yourself up and venture out to admire the heavens. Some mighty brilliant points of light await you.