View all the naked eye planets at dawn January 20, 2016Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
Tags: Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Moon, observing, planets, Saturn, urban observing, Venus
The return of Mercury to the morning skies means all the naked eye planets are visible at dawn now. We have a couple weeks’ worth of great morning observing coming up, which might make you glad for late sunrises.
Start with January 24th. At 7 AM, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and the Moon spread out across the entire sky.
The 25th marks the day of least span. From Mercury to Jupiter will cover only 112º 3′ that day, or about 2/3 of the sky from southeast to southwest.
By the 28th, the planets will have spread out to 112º 40’ (not a noticeable change to most of us), but the Moon will be inside that span. It’ll be right next to bright Jupiter, so if you like taking pictures, it’s a good opportunity.
The Moon tends to overwhelm the other planets, but if you like conjunctions, look for the Moon and: Spica on the 30th; Mars on February 1; Saturn on the 3rd; and Venus and Mercury on the 6th.
If your goal is a glimpse of illusive Mercury, take your binoculars out on February 4th, when Mercury is more than 5 1/2° above the southeast horizon at 7 AM. That’s about the same as holding 3 fingers at arm’s length, so a clear horizon is a must. It’ll be up 10° by 7:30, but by then it will also be very bright out.
On February 6, head out with the binoculars again and use Venus to find Mercury and an old crescent Moon.
Mercury, the fleet footed messenger, and Venus, goddess of love, will be at their closest on February 14, just in time for Valentine’s Day. May he speed your messages to the one you love.