This month the three brightest planets, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn battle the sky for prominence beginning in the early evening as Jupiter sets in the west and Saturn rises in the east. If its not to cold out, grab your telescope or a good pair of binoculars and try to see the shadow of the moon Europa as it passes across the face of Jupiter on the evening of the 3rd starting at 8:28 PM EST. Exactly two hours later Europa’s shadow will follow looking like small black dot as it chases Europa across Jupiter’s face.
Venus rises in the east just before dawn this month as it gradually pulls closer to the Sun. Venus crosses through the star and nebular rich region of Sagittarius so be sure to look around as it passes near the Triffid Nebular (M20) on the 4th and 5th, and star clusters M25 and M22 on the 11th. On the 28th Venus is close to the waning crescent moon and should be a beautiful site.
Saturn rises late in the evening around 11 PM and sets in the early morning. Look for it close to the waning Moon on the 20th in the east around 10 PM.
Orion is still the move visible constellation in the sky and easy to spot even with city lights. Its a good conversation starter with kids to get them interested in the night sky.
On these clear winter nights don’t forget to look for the International Space Station. At times it will be brighter than any object other than the moon. Go to heavens-above.com and enter in your location to see when the ISS will be visible.
Thats a short version of Skies Over Balsam for this month. I will add highlights of any new events during the month. So until next month, turn out the lights go outside and enjoy the night sky at Balsam.