Before dawn on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, watch for the waning crescent moon shining close to the golden planet Saturn. The fainter, twinkling, ruddy object in the vicinity of the moon and Saturn is Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. Antares represents the Scorpion’s Heart.
You can’t see Saturn’s rings through ordinary field binoculars, though binoculars are great for getting an eyeful of earthshine on the dark side of the moon.
But you can view Saturn’s rings with a modest backyard telescope. Try your luck tomorrow, before dawn.
Once you’ve identified Saturn, jump off from there to witness all five visible planets in the same sky. From east to west, the five visible planets are Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Look for Mars and Jupiter a good ways to the west of the ringed planet. The bow of the lunar crescent points in the direction of Venus and Mercury near the southeast horizon, but don’t expect to see Mercury until darkness first begins to give way to dawn (80 to 70 minutes before sunrise).
The five visible planets will adorn the February morning sky until around February 20. In the chart below, Mars shines close to due south, so Jupiter lies outside this chart in the southwest sky. Scroll to the bottom of this post for an additional chart showing Jupiter and all five planets in the morning sky.
In their order of brightness, the five planets are Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn and Mars. Mercury may not appear as bright as Saturn or Mars, however, because the solar system’s innermost planet sits so close to the horizon and in the glare of sunrise.
Read more: See all 5 planets at once!
Bottom line: Before dawn on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, let the moon introduce you to Saturn – and, in fact, all five visible morning planets.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.