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January 6 before dawn: Moon, Venus, Saturn

Wednesday before dawn – January 6, 2016 – get up early to see the waning crescent moon and dazzling planet Venus near each other in the twilight. In fact, get up early and be rewarded four times over. Four planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – make a graceful arc across the early morning sky now.

The moon and Venus rank as the second-brightest and third-brightest celestial bodies, after the sun. Even if you get up as little as one-half hour before sunrise, you’ll still have a good chance of spotting these two brilliant beauties in the morning twilight glare.

If you want to see the planet Saturn and the star Antares in the vicinity of the waning moon and Venus, you probably need to get up more than an hour before sunrise. Ideally, you’ll be up and about about one and one-half hours before the sun to view Saturn and Antares in the neighborhood of the moon and Venus.

When will all five visible planets appear simultaneously?

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Watch the waning crescent moon swing by Venus, Saturn and Antares over the next few days. The green line highlights the ecliptic - Earth's orbital plane projected onto the great dome of sky.

Watch the waning crescent moon swing by Venus, Saturn and Antares over the next few days. The green line highlights the ecliptic – Earth’s orbital plane projected onto the great dome of sky.

But we said four planets, and so far we’ve mentioned only two. The other two are Mars and Jupiter.

The sky chart below shows the approximate positions of the morning planets as seen from mid-northern latitudes. From anywhere worldwide, though, the lineup of planets enables you to planet-hop – jump from one planet to another.

For instance, you can locate Mars roughly midway between the sky’s two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter. You can find the planet Saturn very close to Venus, the sky’s brightest planet.

jan-3-venus-jupiter-moon-night-sky-chart

Starting around January 20, 2016, Mercury will join the predawn/dawn planet festival to showcase all five visible planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – in the same sky for the first time since January of 2005.

Bottom line: The moon and Venus are close together on the morning of January 6, 2016. Saturn and the star Antares are nearby. The other very bright planet, besides Venus, is Jupiter. It’s higher in the sky before dawn than the other planets. Mars is about midway between Jupiter and Venus.

Astronomy events, star parties, festivals, workshops for 2016

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Bruce McClure

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