We're going to some really cool and very cold nights. While many of you may have a fire by fire, astronomers will be tied up with a lovely garden and set out.
Winter is one of the best years of observing stars, constellations and planets. In June, July and August, the whole Earth is heading toward the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. We are looking for combined billions of billions of billions. The combined light of so many distant stars gives the sky a mild quality.
The summer sky in December, January and February is brighter and sharper, as we are looking for the opposite path – from the center of the galaxy. Between us and the extra-galactic space there are fewer stars.
Our late week break between meteorological systems is perfectly timed. On Friday morning, January 31, and maybe even on Saturday morning, the slender waning crescent will slide down the planets of Jupiter, Venus, and if you're lucky to see it, Saturn.
First, a month appears, followed by Jupiter and then Venus and finally Saturn. Due to the clear sky and an unlimited horizon towards the sunrise, it will be easy to capture Moon, Venus and Jupiter. Then just watch. The planets and the moon will still be there, and the illuminated side of the moon is heading toward Saturn. Saturn just returned east before dawn. So far, it is not very pronounced and will be relatively low on the horizon, so you may have trouble seeing it, but it's worth it to try out – the opportunity to see Saturn is quite exciting.
On Friday morning, the moon and Saturn will be very close to the southern sky. This should facilitate detection. On Friday, the month will be 27 days old, meaning it will be the smallest source of the falling moon, and only five percent will be lit. The old moon – as it is known – will not cause severe light pollution that would disrupt your ability to see Saturn.
If you encounter other skies in the sky and think about what might be, this little trick could help: the stars will flash – the planets are not.
The stars are so far from Earth that the tip of the light is fine and distorted by the atmosphere of the Earth. The planets are closer to us and have a wider point – the edges distort but not the central point – so the planets are not blinking.
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Cindy Day is the main meteorologist for SaltWire Network.