If you’re up before dawn on August 24 and 25, try star-hopping to the red planet Mars from the Gemini stars, Castor and Pollux. First of all find the dazzling planet Jupiter, the brightest star-like object to light up the predawn and dawn sky.
Given a clear sky, you simply can’t miss Jupiter in the east during the predawn and dawn hours. It’s by far the most brilliant celestial body to adorn the August 2013 morning sky, with the exception of the moon. As a matter of fact, Jupiter will be the brightest star-like object in the morning sky for the rest of this year.
If you live at mid-northern latitudes – like those in the U.S. and Europe – look to the left of the planet Jupiter to behold the constellation Gemini’s two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux. Draw an imaginary line downward from Castor and through Pollux to locate the red planet Mars, which is fainter than either Gemini star.
If you live at temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere – like those at Cape Town, South Africa, or southern Australia – seek for the two Gemini stars below the planet Jupiter. Then draw an imaginary line from Castor through Pollux to find Mars to the right of these wonderful reference stars.
You’ll probably have to be up at least an hour before sunrise to observe Mars with the unaided eye. If you have binoculars, however, they’ll help you to see Mars in the glow of morning dawn.
At present, Jupiter and Mars both reside in front of the zodiacal constellation Gemini the Twins. Catch Jupiter and Mars before dawn, and use these planetary lampposts to envision ecliptic – the planetary pathway of in front the constellations of the Zodiac!
For the next several mornings, star-hop to the red planet Mars from the bright Gemini stars, Castor and Pollux!