Tomorrow morning – February 1, 2016 – the moon will be near its last quarter phase as it and Mars rise over the eastern horizon an hour or so after the midnight hour at mid-northern latitudes. If you’re not a night owl, you’ll be better off to view the moon and Mars before dawn Monday.
Our sky chart at top specifically applies to mid-northern North American latitudes.
Nonetheless – no matter where you are on Earth – you should have little trouble using the moon to locate Mars in your own sky before dawn on February 1. Look first for the moon, and the nearby bright starlike object will be the red planet Mars.
And, by the way, Monday morning is an awesome time to identify Mars for another reason. This planet has been inconspicuous in our sky for the past year or more, because Earth has been following behind it in the race of the planets around the sun. But – this coming May 22 – we’ll pass between Mars and the sun. Between now and then, you’ll see Mars get much redder and much brighter in our sky.
If you look closely, you might also spot a fainter but visible light close to Mars. It’s Zubenelgenubi, the alpha star in the constellation Libra the Scales.
If you have difficulty making out the star Zubenelgenubi with the eye alone, try your luck with binoculars. Mars and Zubenelgenubi will occupy the same binocular field of view for at least another week. What’s more, binoculars show Zubenelgenubi to be a double star.
While taking in the wonder of the predawn sky, take time to view the other four visible planets. Brilliant Jupiter shines to the west of the moon and Mars, while the planets Saturn, Venus and Mercury lurk to the lower east of the moon and Mars. The moon passed Jupiter last week, and will be passing the other planets in the coming days.
Click here to find out more about the grand parade of morning planets.
Bottom line: Before dawn on February 1, 2016, look for the moon and Mars close together on the sky’s dome.