Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science
Tonight and tomorrow night, the moon will guide you to the two brightest planets in the January evening sky – Jupiter and Mars.
As darkness falls, look low in your west or southwest sky for the thin waxing crescent moon. That blazing point of light by the moon is the planet Jupiter. You can’t miss Jupiter – it’s far brighter than any star.
The moon and Jupiter set shortly after full darkness falls – even earlier as seen from Earth’s southern hemisphere. At mid-northern latitudes – like in the US – Jupiter sets about 2.5 hours after sunset. At mid-southern latitudes – like in Australia – Jupiter sets around 1.5 hours after the sun.
As the moon and Jupiter are sinking in the west in early evening, turn in the opposite direction – toward the east – and watch for the red planet Mars to ascend over your eastern horizon. At mid-northern latitudes, they’ll both be visible around 2 hours after sunset.
Mars isn’t as bright as Jupiter now, but this reddish world is still plenty bright – as bright as the brightest stars.
The brightness and reddish color of Mars can help you recognize it. Also, keep in mind that Mars tends to shine with a steady light, while the stars are more apt to twinkle. With an unobstructed horizon, it’ll be possible to see both planets – Jupiter in the west and Mars in the east – in early evening. Mars will be at its closest to Earth for this entire year later this month. This planet is at its best about every two years – and now’s the time. So watch for Mars – a reddish light, shining steadily, ascending in the east each evening now.
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