Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday July 18th and 19th, 2022

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday July 18th and 19th, written by Joe Slomka.

Monday’s Sun sets at 8:30 PM; night falls at 10:35. Dawn breaks at 3:28 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:34.

Cetus, the Whale, houses the Moon on both nights. Monday’s 21-day-old Moon rises in the East at 11:45 PM, appears 31 arc-minutes in size, 66% illuminated and sets at 12:23 PM, Tuesday. Tuesday’s Moon does not rise, but the Moon does rise at 12:06 AM on Wednesday’s Last Quarter, 31 arc-minutes and 63% lit.

Saturn rises first in Capricornus 9:50 PM, shining with zero magnitude, 18 arc-seconds, highest at 2:56 AM 25° high at Civil Dawn. Minor Planet 4Vesta, is next, rising in Aquarius at 10:43 PM, 6th magnitude, a half arc-second, 98% lit, 19° to Saturn’s lower left and 29° highest at 3:50 AM. Neptune, in Pisces, is next rising at 11:03 PM, 8th magnitude, a tiny 2 arc-seconds and 41° high. Aries houses Jupiter and Uranus. Jupiter, in Cetus, rises at 11:33 PM, shimmers with minus 2nd magnitude, a large 43 arc-seconds and 48° high; note that Jupiter lies only 3° from the Moon. Using a telescope, it may be possible to see the Jovian moon Callisto, since it is the most distant from Jupiter. Mars is next to rise at 12:51 AM, glowing with zero magnitude, 7 arc-seconds, and 44° high. Mars lies 9° West of Uranus, which rises at 1:09 AM, glimmering with 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds and 41° high. Venus, in Orion, is the last to rise, but lowest due to gradual motion into the Sun’s glare. It rises at 3:40 AM, blazes with minus 4th magnitude, 11 arc-seconds, 85% lit but only 13° high. If the observer arises early enough, he may be able to see the open star cluster M35 only 1.5° from Venus; observers should take care to avowing accidently looking at the rising Sun.

At nightfall, the “W” shaped constellation Cassiopeia points to a home plate shaped Cepheus. Cepheus is home to a famous star, Delta Cephei. Some stars vary in brightness because they are eclipsed by another star, dust cloud, or planet. Delta Cephei belongs to a group of stars that vary because of changes within the star itself. Variable stars have been known since antiquity; Algol and Mira are examples. What makes Delta Cephei so special is that Henrietta Levitt discovered that its variations indicate its brightness; the period of variation is linked to the luminosity. If an observer sees a Cepheid variable, the observer knows how bright it truly is. Since he sees it dimmer, the astronomer can approximate how far away it is. Cepheids made it possible to discover the vast distances between our galaxy and other galaxies. Cepheids are among the tools astronomers use to gauge the size of the universe.

Skywatch Line for Friday, July 15, through Sunday, July 17, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, July 15, through Sunday, July 17, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:30am and sets at 8:32pm; Moon sets at 7:25am and rises at 10:30pm. Overnight on Friday, the waning gibbous Moon in the southeast will be shining a palm’s width below the yellowish dot of Saturn. Before sunrise, the Moon and Saturn will have moved into the brightening southwestern sky and the diurnal motion of the sky will have lowered Saturn to the Moon’s right. On Saturday night, the Moon and Saturn rise higher through the night and shine highest in the south before dawn, with Saturn to the Moon’s right. In the early morning hours of Sunday, the waning Moon shines about midway between Jupiter and Saturn. The little star 1.4 degrees below Saturn before dawn is the magnitude 2.8 Delta Capricorni.

Jupiter rises from the eastern horizon before midnight, from mid-July onward, joining Saturn in the evening sky. Jupiter, at magnitude –2.5 at the Pisces-Cetus border, rises due east around midnight. It’s nearly at its highest in the south as dawn begins. It’s 43 arcseconds wide. Binoculars will show Jupiter’s four Galilean moons to the east and west of the planet. A backyard telescope will better show the moons and reveal dark bands stretching across Jupiter’s large disk. The Great Red Spot will cross the planet every second or third night.

Venus, at magnitude –3.9, rises low in the east-northeast just as dawn begins.

Mars, at magnitude +0.4 in in the constellation of Aries, rises around 1am and hangs high in the east-southeast as dawn begins. It’s about three fists lower left of bright Jupiter.

Uranus, at magnitude 5.8 in the constellation of Aries, is in the east before the first light of dawn. It sits to the lower left of Mars. Neptune, at magnitude 7.9 at the Aquarius-Pisces border, is high in the southeast before the first light of dawn, right of Jupiter.

The Sagittarius Teapot sits in the south-southeast after dark now. It’s about the apparent size of a fist at arm’s length. The Teapot is just starting to tilt, or pour, to the right. The Teapot will tilt more and more for the rest of the summer or for much of the night if you stay out late. To the lower right of the Teapot, the tail of Scorpius is low due south right after dark. Look for the two stars close together in the Scorpius tail. Lambda, at magnitude 1.6, and fainter Upsilon Scorpii, at magnitude 2.6, are also known as the Cat’s Eyes. The cat has a bleary eye and is tilting its head to the right. Both are blue-white supergiant stars, 700 and 500 light years away, respectively. The fainter one is nearer. Between the Cat’s Eyes and the Teapot’s spout are the open star clusters M6 and M7, showy in binoculars. A line through the Cat’s Eyes points (right by nearly a fist-width toward Mu Scorpii, a much tighter pair known as the Little Cat’s Eyes. They’re oriented almost the same way as Lambda and Upsilon. But they’re only 0.1 degree apart. These two are not a binary star. They’re 800 and 500 light-years away, respectively. The fainter one is the nearer of this pair also.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, July 13 and 14, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, July 13 and 14, written by Alan French.

The Sun rises at 5:29 A.M. and sets at 8:33 P.M. on Wednesday. On Thursday it rises at 5:30 and sets at 8:32. Thursday has 6 ½ minutes less daylight than a week ago.

The Moon reaches full early in the afternoon on Wednesday, July 13. The full Moon of July, the Buck Moon, will rise at 9:08 P.M. in the southeast. With a proper foreground, moonrises make nice photos. Moonrise on Thursday will be at 9:55 P.M. toward the east southeast. The Moon will still be 97% in sunlight and appear essentially full.

These two days will offer nice chances to spot the International Space Station in the morning and evening sky. The times given are for Schenectady, but should be close enough for anyone in the Capital District region and surrounding area.

On Wednesday morning the ISS will reach magnitude -2.8 and a maximum altitude of 49 degrees. It will first appear above the northwestern horizon at 3:36 A.M. It will begin passing above the Big Dipper, low in the north northwest, at 3:37 and will be passing well above the Dipper’s bowl at 3:38. Just after 3:39 the ISS will pass below the W pattern of stars marking Cassiopeia, the Queen. It will then pass below Perseus, headed toward the east southeast. It will pass below Mars as it heads toward the east southeastern horizon.

The ISS pass Wednesday night is higher and brighter, reaching magnitude -3.9 and an altitude of 73 degrees. Look for the ISS coming up in the southwest at 9:55. Just after 9:56 it will pass near Spica, the brightest star in Virgo 21 degrees above the southwestern horizon. The path of the ISS will take it high across the southeastern sky, passing through Hercules, Lyra, and Cygnus. Just before 9:59 it will pass close to Vega, the brightest star in Lyra. It will then pass-through Cygnus and head toward the east northeastern horizon, disappearing by 10:03.

The best ISS passes Thursday will be closely matched in brightness and maximum altitude. The morning pass will reach magnitude -3.3 and a maximum altitude of 39 degrees and the evening pass magnitude -3.4 and an altitude of 42 degrees.

On Thursday the ISS will appear in the west northwest at 4:24 A.M. At 4:25, if you’re looking toward the west, it will pass well below bright Vega, heading toward the south. It will pass very close to Altair, in Aquila, the Eagle, just before 4:27. The space station will then pass well above the Moon and then above Saturn. It will vanish low toward the southeast after 4:30.

Thursday evening’s pass starts in the southwest at 9:07 P.M. with the ISS passing well below Spica. Just after 9:09 it will be in the south and passing above Scorpius, the Scorpion. The space station will be highest when in the southeast just after 9:10. At 9:11 it will pass above Altair and will disappear low in the east around 9:14.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, July 11th and 12th, 2022

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, July 11th and 12th, written by Joe Slomka.

Monday’s Sun sets at 8:34 PM; night falls at 10:44. Tuesday, Dawn breaks at 3:18 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:28.

Monday’s Moon rises, in southeast Ophiuchus, at 6:57 PM, 33 arc-minutes in size, 95% illuminated, 14° high at 9 PM, and sets at 3:39 AM, Tuesday. Tuesday’s Moon rises in Sagittarius, 8:08 PM, 99% lit, 6° high and sets at 4:46 AM on Wednesday’s Full Moon.

The evening sky is rapidly filling in with heavenly bodies. Saturn is the first, rising at 10:18 PM in Capricornus, shining with zero magnitude, a moderate 18 arc-seconds and 32° highest at 3:20 AM. Minor Planet 4Vesta is next, 13° to Saturn’s lower left, rising at 11:09 PM, 6th magnitude, 0.5 arc-seconds, highest at 4:18 AM, 97% illuminated; although bright, Vesta may require binoculars to see it; it also is stationary on Tuesday night, preparing to back up (retrograde). Neptune, in Pisces, follows at 11:30 PM, glowing with 8th magnitude, 2 arc-seconds and 36° high at 3:20 AM. Jupiter follows in Cetus, 13° East of Neptune, rising at Midnight, a large 42 arc-minutes, 35° high; Jupiter’s telescopic Great Red Spot (a giant storm) begins to cross the planet’s face at 4:07 AM, Wednesday.

Eastern Aries houses Mars and Uranus on both nights. Mars rises at 1:06 AM, glowing with zero magnitude, 8 arc-seconds, 85% lit and highest at 25°. Uranus rises at 1:36 AM, 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds and 19° high; Uranus is found 13° East of Mars. Mercury is too close to the Sun, so Venus, in Taurus, is now the last to rise, at 3:33 AM, blazing with minus 4th magnitude, 11 arc-seconds, 7° high and 88% lit.

Unlike our Sun which only slightly varies its output, some stars make their variations very visible. For example, Algol, in Perseus, varies every 2.8 days with magnitudes between 2nd and 3rd. Others take much longer. Mira, in Cetus takes 332 days to vary from 9th to 3rd magnitude and back. At Dawn Wednesday, Mira reaches its maximum, about 3.5 magnitude. Mira is located midway between the Whale’s head and tail, 14° below Mars. Rising in the East at 2 AM, Mira is 10° above the horizon at 3 AM, 20° at 4 AM and is soon lost in the brightening Dawn. This is the last chance to observe Mira for a while; it will be lost in the solar glare and will be visible again in 2026.

The annual Saratoga Track season begins Thursday. Two horses appear by midnight. The largest horse is, of course, Pegasus. The smallest is Equuleus. This dim constellation is easy to find. Pegasus fly’s upside down and is easily identified as a Great Square. Two thin chains sweep northward from the upper left. If one sweeps across the chain, binoculars reveal a large hazy oval; this is revealed, in telescopes, to be the Andromeda Galaxy – about two and a half million light years distant. You can see it with the naked eye under rural skies. Pegasus’ neck flows from the lower right corner and angles up. Equuleus is the small angular line of stars, 8° West of Pegasus’ nose. A globular star cluster, M 15, lies halfway between Pegasus’ nose and Equuleus; this too is easily seen in binoculars.

Skywatch Line for Friday, July 8, through Sunday, July 10, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, July 8, through Sunday, July 10, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:25am and sets at 8:35pm; Moon sets at 1:07am and rises at 3:02pm. On Sunday evening, the bright waxing gibbous Moon moves just above Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius the Scorpion. To the left of the waxing gibbous Moon, look for orange Antares and the rest of the pattern of upper Scorpius. Antares represents the Heart of the Scorpion. Notice its red color and rapid twinkling.

Venus, at magnitude –3.9, rises just as dawn begins. Look for it above the east-northeast horizon. It’s very far lower left of bright Jupiter, by six or seven fists at arm’s length.

Mars and Jupiter, at magnitudes +0.4 and –2.5 respectively, rise after midnight and shine in the east-southeast before and during early dawn. Mars is about two fists to Jupiter’s lower left. They continue to move apart, week by week.

Saturn, at magnitude +0.7 in the constellation of Capricornus, rises in the east-southeast around the end of twilight. It’s highest in the south shortly before dawn, about 2 hours before sunrise. The little star 1½ degrees below or lower right of Saturn is Delta Capricorni, magnitude 2.8.

The 8th magnitude moon of Saturn, Titan, will occult a star of the same brightness on Saturday morning. The occultation will be visible from much of North America. Titan will be 3 arcminutes east of Saturn, or about 4 ring-diameters. When Titan gets close enough to the star that the two appear to merge, they will appear as a single object of magnitude 7.9. Then, for several seconds, the object will gradually diminish in brightness as the star sinks into Titan’s atmosphere, Maps, a timetable for hundreds of locations, by David Dunham, and more information are on IOTA’s webpage for this

The Big Dipper hangs down by its handle high in the northwest after dark. The Big Dipper is turning around to “scoop up water” through the evenings of summer and early fall. Spot the highest star at the end of its handle. Alkaid is the tail of Ursa Major. Alkaid derives from the Arabic word meaning the leader. Spot the Sickle of Leo much lower in the west. The brightest star about two fists upper left of the Sickle is Denebola, the tail of Leo. About a third of the way from Alkaid to Denebola is a fainter star, Cor Caroli, a binary star designated Alpha Canum Venaticorum or Canum Venticorum, in the northem constellation of Canes Venatici. Look two thirds of the way along that line with wide-field binoculars for the big, dim Coma Berenices star cluster. The cluster’s brightest members form an upside-down Y. The entire cluster is about 4 degrees wide big, dim glow in a dark sky. It’s roughly the size of a ping-pong ball at arm’s length that fills a binocular view.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, July 6 and 7, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, July 6 and 7, written by Alan French.

The Sun rises at 5:24 A.M. and sets at 8:36 P.M. on Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday has just under 6 minutes less daylight than a week ago. We’re now losing about 1 minute every day and the rate is slowly increasing.

The Moon reaches first quarter, a quarter of the way around Earth from new and half way to full, at 10:14 P.M. on Wednesday night. The Moon will in the southwest as the Sun sets. Near the end of twilight, it will be in the west southwest and will set 26 minutes after midnight.

At 10:14 Wednesday evening the Moon will be 50% in sunlit. On Thursday at the same time, it will be 61% illuminated. The Moon will reach full early in the afternoon on Wednesday, July 13.

As we’ve often mentioned, around first quarter is a good time to explore the Moon with a telescope. Any telescope or spotting scope magnifying 50 or 60 times will reveal a wealth of detail, showing the smoother plains, craters, and mountains. Even steadily held binoculars with their modest magnifications will show the larger features, and observing with two eyes is agreeable.

If you do manage to observe the Moon on both nights, or any two nights in succession between new and full, notice how different features look when they are farther into sunlight. Their appearance changes a lot as the Sun rises higher and shadows grow shorter.

Look for points or lines of light just over into darkness. These are mountain tops and crater walls just catching the first light of the rising Sun. If you watch one of these peaks or crater walls over time, you’ll see more of the feature move into sunlight. It’s fun to watch the rising Sun slowly reveal a crater’s floor.

Science fiction author Robert Heinlein was born on July 7, 1907, in Butler, Missouri. He wrote 32 novels and more than 50 short stories.
A week from now we’ll have nice chances to spot the International Space Station in the morning and evening sky. Stay tuned.

Skywatch Line for Friday, July 1, through Sunday, July 3, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, July 1, through Sunday, July 3, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:21am and sets at 8:37pm; Moon rises at 7:18am and sets at 10:49pm. In twilight on Saturday evening, look west for the waxing crescent Moon. Look left of the Moon for Regulus and above the Moon for slightly fainter Algieba, Gamma Leonis. Binoculars help reveal the color difference between the two stars. Algieba is a wide optical double in binoculars and a much closer true binary, about 5 arcseconds, in telescopes.

All five naked-eye planets remain lined up in the dawn. From Mercury through Saturn, they run from low in the east-northeast to high in the south as dawn brightens. They happen to be arranged in order of their distance from the Sun, counting from lower left to upper right. Uranus and Neptune also lurk among them.

Mercury is slightly difficult to see. It sits low in the glow of sunrise, lower left of bright Venus. Mercury sinks a little lower into the sunrise day by day, even as it brightens from magnitude –0.2 to –0.8.

Venus, at magnitude –3.9, rises just as dawn begins. Look for it above the east-northeast horizon. It’s very far lower left of bright Jupiter, by roughly six fists at arm’s length.

Mars and Jupiter, very different at magnitudes +0.5 and –2.4 respectively, shine in the east-southeast before and during early dawn, near the Pisces-Cetus border. Mars glows to Jupiter’s lower left. They continue to move apart.

Saturn, magnitude +0.7, rises around 11pm in eastern Capricornus. It’s about four fists to the right of Jupiter. The little star less than 2 degree to Saturn’s lower right is the magnitude 2.8 Delta Capricorni. Saturn has stayed near Delta Cap for weeks because the planet is near its stationary point, the eastern end of the retrograde loop on the sky that it performs every 12½ months. Delta Capricorni will keep close company with Saturn all the way through August.

Uranus lies between Venus and Mars. Uranus, magnitude 5.8 in the constellation of Aries, is low in the east horizon before the first light of dawn.

Neptune lies between Jupiter and Saturn. Neptune, magnitude 7.9 at the Aquarius-Pisces border, is high in the southeast before the first light of dawn.

Look at the Summer Triangle after dark on the eastern side of the sky. Vega, the brightest on that entire half of the sky, is its top star. The brightest star to Vega’s lower left is Deneb, the brightest star in the constellation of Cygnus the swan. Farther to Vega’s lower right is Altair, the brightest star of the constellation of Aquilla the eagle. The fainter Tarazed, in the constellation of Aquilla, lies just above it. The Milky Way runs across the Triangle just inside its bottom edge. As evening grows late the Triangle rises high. Look left or lower left of Altair, by more than a fist, for the compact little constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin. Then try for even fainter, smaller Sagitta, the Arrow. It’s to Altair’s upper left, just a little closer. The Arrow points lower left, past the head of Delphinus.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, June 29 and 30, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, June 29 and 30, written by Alan French.

The Sun rises at 5:20 A.M. and sets at 8:38 P.M. on Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday has just under 3 minutes less daylight than a week ago. The days have been growing shorter since June 21.

The Moon was new late Tuesday and is now moving toward first quarter. On Wednesday night a very slender crescent Moon, less than 1% in sunlight, sets just over an hour after sunset. It will be a difficult target low toward the northwest at 9:00 P.M. It will lie only 5 degrees above the horizon, requiring a clear view to the northwest. With such a slender crescent you’ll need transparent skies free of clouds and haze to spot it by eye, and binoculars or other optical aid may be required. Seeing a Moon that is only 22 hours past new (22 hours “old”) is always a challenge, but a treat if you succeed.

Thursday night’s Moon, almost two days old, will be brighter, higher, and easier to spot. At 9:00 P.M. it will be just over 11 degrees above the west northwestern horizon and 3.3% illuminated. Under darker skies at 9:30 it will still be 6 ½ degrees high and should be a lovely sight. The Moon will set at 10:13. The Moon will reach first quarter on Wednesday, July 6.

By 10:30 P.M., under dark skies, the Summer Triangle, an easy, large, and familiar pattern of three bright stars, is high toward the east. Highest, at 62 degrees above the horizon, and brightest member of the Sumer Triangle, shining at magnitude +0.02, is Vega, the fifth brightest star in the night sky. Vega is the brightest star in the small constellation, Lyra, the Lyre. Facing east, look for a small parallelogram of stars to Vega’s lower right and a single star to its lower left.

Below and left of Vega is bright Deneb, above the east northeastern horizon. Deneb marks the tail of Cygnus, the Swan. The body and neck of the Swan stretches to Deneb’s right, with its wings stretching upward and downward from the next bright star. Many know part of the Swan’s outline as the Northern Cross.

Below and right of Vega, farther away than Deneb, you’ll find the third member of the triangle, Altair, the brightest star in Aquila, the Eagle.

The majority of bright stars in the night sky are bright because they are relatively close. Altair is 17 light years away and Vega is 25 light years from us. Deneb, however, is about 2600 light years from us. The light you see left the star around 580 B.C. At its distance, it is clearly a very luminous star, between 55,000 and 196.00 times as bright as our Sun, depending on its exact distance.

Skywatch Line for Friday, June 24, through Sunday, June 26, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, June 24, through Sunday, June 26, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:18am and sets at 8:38pm; Moon rises at 2:24am and sets at 4:44pm. The latest sunset occurs on Sunday.

This week and next, with Mercury brightening, all five naked-eye planets form their best lineup in the dawn. They’re lined up in order of their distance from the Sun, counting from lower left to upper right. Dim Uranus, and Neptune also lurk along the same line. The Moon walks the length of the line day by day.

Before dawn on Friday, the old crescent Moon will shine a palm’s width to the upper left of the small, magnitude 5.8, speck of Uranus, low in the eastern sky. On Saturday morning, the Moon will hop east to sit 5 degrees to Uranus’ lower left, close enough to share the view in binoculars.

An hour before sunrise on Sunday, the delicate, slim crescent of the old Moon will shine just to the upper left of the very bright planet Venus. Look for the duo shining just above the east-northeastern horizon, flanked below and above by Mercury and the Pleiades star cluster, respectively.

On Monday before sunrise, the silver sliver of the old Moon’s crescent will shine several finger widths to the upper left of the bright dot of Mercury. Find them above the east-northeastern horizon.

This is the time of year when the two brightest stars of summer, Arcturus and Vega, are about equally high overhead soon after dark: Arcturus toward the southwest, Vega toward the east. After dark, look southeast for orange Antares, the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius. Antares is what Betelgeuse is to the winter nights. Both stars are 1st-magnitude “red” supergiants. Around and upper right of Antares, the other whiter stars of upper Scorpius form their distinctive pattern. The rest of the Scorpion curls down toward the horizon. Right after dark, spot Arcturus way up high toward the southwest. Look three fists below Antares for Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. A fist and a half to Spica’s lower right, four-star Corvus, the Crow of spring, is heading down and away.

Arcturus and Vega are 37 and 25 light-years away, respectively. They represent the two commonest types of naked-eye star: a yellow-orange K giant and a white A main-sequence star. They’re 150 and 50 times brighter than the Sun, respectively.

Skywatch Line for Friday, June 17, through Sunday, June 19, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, June 17, through Sunday, June 19, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:16am and sets at 8:36pm; Moon sets at 8:32am. The waning gibbous Moon rises around midnight on Friday, with Saturn glowing steadily about 7 degrees to its left. Saturn is magnitude +0.7. Partway between it and the Moon look for Delta Capricorni, magnitude +2.8. By the beginning of dawn Saturday morning this array is high in the south, now aligned more upright. The bright star close to the Moon and Saturn is Fomalhaut, the brightest star in the southern constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the “Southern Fish”. Fomalhaut, from Arabic for “the fish’s mouth”, is used in navigation because of its conspicuous place in a sky region otherwise lacking in bright stars.

Mercury reached greatest western elongation, its greatest angular distance from the Sun (23 degrees west of the Sun), on Thursday, June 16. But even then, it doesn’t rise until dawn is already under way. Try for it low, about 40 to 30 minutes before sunrise using binoculars. Look for Mercury to the lower left of the much brighter Venus. The beautiful star cluster Pleiades is also nearby.

Venus, at magnitude –3.9, rises soon after the beginning of dawn. Look for it just left of due east. It’s very far lower left of bright Jupiter, by four or five fists at arm’s length.

Mars and Jupiter, at magnitudes +0.6 and –2.3 respectively, shine in the east-southeast before and during early dawn. From Jupiter, look for little Mars, 12 degrees to the lower left on Saturday morning.

Saturn, magnitude +0.7, glows in eastern Capricornus, about four fists, to the right of Jupiter before and during early dawn. The little star 2 degrees to Saturn’s lower right is Delta Capricorni, magnitude 2.8. Delta Capricorni has been staying there week after week is because Saturn is near its stationary point, the east end of the retrograde loop it performs against the sky every 12½ months. Since Saturn is quite far away as planets go, its retrograde loop is small. Delta Capricorni will keep close company with Saturn all the way through August.

Asteroid 10 Hygiea is making a tight turnaround in the constellation of Virgo the Maiden this month. On Friday night, it’s come to a virtual standstill and over the next few days, this Asteroid will pivot from traveling northwest to moving east. Virgo is still some 40 degrees above the southern horizon an hour after sunset and with no Moon yet in the sky. Find Virgo’s famous alpha star, magnitude 1 Spica. From there, it’s just over 8 degrees southeast to 10th-magnitude Hygiea. A small or medium size telescope should capture the asteroid for viewing. Only a handful of field stars nearby are brighter. Although classified as an asteroid, Hygiea is quite large, 270 miles across, and its shape is nearly round. Despite its size, it remains dim because its surface is dark and doesn’t reflect sunlight well. The brightest it gets is roughly magnitude 9 at perihelion, allowing observers to potentially spot it with binoculars.

Uranus, at magnitude 5.8, is washed out in the eastern dawn far in the background of Venus.
Neptune, magnitude 7.9 at the Aquarius-Pisces border, is 10 degrees right of Jupiter before dawn begins.