This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, January 14, through Sunday, January 16, written by Sam Salem.
On Friday, Sun rises at 7:24am and sets at 4:45pm; Moon sets at 4:51am and rises at 1:52pm.
Fading Mercury is low in the west-southwest in twilight, with Saturn near it.
Venus is out of sight. Next week it will begin emerging low in the dawn.
Mars, at +1.5 magnitude in the feet of Ophiuchus, is low in the southeast in early dawn. To its right or upper right, Mars-colored Antares twinkles a little brighter at magnitude +1.0. Mars and Antares are nearly 13 degrees apart on Saturday morning.
Jupiter, at magnitude –2.1 in Aquarius, shines brightly in the southwest at dusk. Spot Fomalhaut, magnitude +1.2, two fists at arm’s length to Jupiter’s lower left.
Saturn, at magnitude +0.7 in Capricornus, is that same distance to Jupiter’s lower right.
The Winter Football, also known as the Winter Hexagon and Winter Circle, is an asterism composed of the brightest stars in the constellations of Canis Major, Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini and Canis Minor. Sirius, Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Castor and Pollux, and Procyon form the Winter Circle. After dusk, the huge pattern will stand upright in the southeastern sky, extending from 30 degrees above the horizon to overhead. The Milky Way passes vertically through the asterism. The hexagon is visible during evenings from mid-November to spring every year. The waxing gibbous Moon will cross the giant shape this weekend, from Friday to Sunday.
On Sunday, the motion of the dwarf planet designated (1) Ceres across the background stars of Taurus will pause while it completes a retrograde loop that began on October 8, 2021. On Sunday night, the magnitude 8.1 dwarf planet will be located in western Taurus, a slim palm’s width below the bright Pleiades star cluster, or Messier 45. After Sunday, Ceres will resume its regular prograde motion eastward.
Zero-magnitude Capella high overhead, and equally bright Rigel in Orion’s foot, have almost the same right ascension. This means they cross sky’s meridian at almost the same time, around 9pm. Therefore, whenever Capella passes its very highest, Rigel always marks true south over your landscape, and vice versa.
The Summer Star, Vega, is still barely hanging in. Look for it over the northwest horizon during and shortly after nightfall. The farther north you are the higher it will be. If you’re as far south as Florida, it’s already gone.