Skywatch Line for Friday, January 22, through Sunday, January 24, 2016

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, January 22, through Sunday, January 24, 2016, written by Alan French.

The Moon is full on Saturday night and will be a lovely sight rising in the east northeast at 4:54 pm. With a nice foreground, the rising full Moon can make a lovely photograph.

Some photographers carefully plan shots of the rising Moon, positioning their camera so they can photograph it rising near a prominent landmark. To do this you need to know just where the Moon will rise. One way to research this is to observe it rising a day earlier, noting the difference it its position then and on the following night. The Moon will rise at 3:54 pm on Friday afternoon, and its rise will be four degrees farther north than it will be on Saturday. If you hold your hand, fingers close together, at arm’s length, it spans five degrees across the first three fingers.

Planning a photo of the setting full Moon is simpler since you can see it as it moves down toward the horizon. The Moon will set at 7:20 am Sunday.

Often its shape will appear distorted when it is low in sky and it may also be a lovely orange color.

Although the full Moon’s brightness washes out the fainter stars and many deep sky objects, some take advantage of the moonlit landscape to hike, snowshoe, or cross country ski.

Five planets now grace the morning skies, although Mercury is close to the horizon and may be difficult to spot. You’ll need a good view and clear skies low to the east southeast and good timing to catch it. Look for it around 6:30 am when it will be three degrees above the horizon. It will be moving higher, but the skies will also be increasingly brightened by morning twilight. If it eludes you, use Venus as a landmark. (Mercury will be slightly higher and easier on Sunday and Monday.)

Brilliant Venus is a bit higher and more to the south. Its brightness makes it impossible to miss. Mercury will be to its lower left, at about the 8 o’clock position, and 14 degrees away. (If you hold your hand at arm’s length, with the outer fingers extended, they span 15 degrees at their tips.)

To the upper right of Venus, look for fainter, yellowish Saturn. If you’ve found Saturn you should see the reddish star Antares to its lower right. Well to the right of and higher than Saturn, almost due south, you’ll find reddish Mars, Completely our lineup of planets, bright Jupiter shines high in the west southwestern sky. This lineup will be closest together on Monday morning.

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