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Moon, Jupiter, Spica January 18-20 before dawn

On the mornings of January 18, 19 and 20, you can see the planet Jupiter near the moon. You can also see them very late at night, after midnight. Click here for data on when the moon, the planet Jupiter and the star Spica rise in your sky tonight.

But no matter where you live around the world, look first for the moon. The dazzling “star” nearby the moon is actually the king planet Jupiter, and the star in Jupiter’s vicinity is Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

Karl Diefenderfer in Quakertown, Pennsylvania caught the moon and Jupiter on the morning of January 19, 2017. He wrote: “A small break in the clouds afforded a colorful view of the moon and Jupiter.” Thanks, Karl.

Dennis Chabot of POSNE Night Sky caught this shot of Jupiter and 3 of its large moons on January 13, 2017. He wrote: “Jupiter and its mini solar system …”

In fact, three bright planets beautify the predawn sky: Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury.

You can use the moon and Jupiter as your guide to Saturn and Mercury in the coming days. All of these objects reside along the ecliptic, or path of the sun, moon and planets. So – as shown on the chart below – a line from the moon and Jupiter, through Saturn, points to Mercury.

In the predawn/dawn sky on January 19, use the moon to locate Jupiter. An imaginary line from Jupiter through Saturn may help you find Mercury near the horizon.

In the predawn sky on January 19, use the moon to locate Jupiter. A line from Jupiter through Saturn will help you find Mercury near the horizon. Seek for Mercury around 90 to 60 minutes before sunrise. It’s up for only a short time before the sun, as twilight begins to wash the sky.

But there’s a lot more in store. All five bright planets – the five planets visible to the unaided eye from Earth – grace these January 2017 nights. The other two are Venus and Mars. They shine in the west from nightfall until mid-evening.

Venus and Mars are shown on the chart below. You’ll find them in the west, as soon as the sky darkens after sunset. Venus is extremely bright, and Mars much fainter.

Don't forget to view the planets Venus and Mars in the western evening sky as soon as darkness falls.

Don’t forget to view the planets Venus and Mars in the western evening sky as soon as darkness falls.

Bottom line: The moon is sweeping past Jupiter now, but – if you know where to look – you can find all 5 bright planets on these January 2017 nights. Charts and info here.

Click here for recommended almanacs; they can help you find out rising times of planets.

Bruce McClure

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