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Moon edging toward Venus, plus the star at the end of the River

The planet Venus climbs above the horizon as night gives way to morning twilight. Click here to know Venus' rising time. The bow of the moon points toward Venus' place by the horizon.

Tonight for January 26, 2014

As we enter the last week of January, 2014, we find the brightest planet – Venus – back in the eastern, predawn sky. Venus passed between the Earth and sun on January 11, and this brightest of planets is heading for another maximum brightness on February 15, 2014. On Monday morning – January 27 – you’ll find the waning crescent moon near the star Antares in the predawn sky (see chart below). Antares, in the constellation Scorpius, is considered a summer star to us in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s just now emerging from the dawn to begin its 2014 apparition. Also, notice the bow of the waning moon Monday morning. It’ll be pointing toward toward Venus. Both can be found in the east shortly before dawn. The moon and Venus will be even closer on Tuesday morning, January 28.

By the way, Venus isn’t the only planet in the predawn sky in late January, 2014. If you get up early, you’ll also find Mars, Saturn and Venus! Visit EarthSky’s January planet guide.

Venus, about 8 hours before January 11 inferior conjunction

Sky charts often highlight the ecliptic - the Earth's orbital plane extended outward to the stellar sphere - because the moon and planets are always found near the ecliptic.

On Monday morning – January 27, 2014 – the moon will be near the red star Antares as seen on our sky’s dome. Notice the ecliptic on this chart. Sky charts often highlight the ecliptic – which marks the plane of Earth’s orbit around the sun, extended outward to the stellar sphere – because the sun, moon and planets are always found on or near it.

If you have a very dark sky on these January evenings - and if you're at the extreme southern U.S. or farther south - you can see Achernar, the star that marks the end of the River, aka the constellation Eridanus.

If you have a very dark sky on these January evenings – and if you’re at the extreme southern U.S. or farther south – you can see Achernar, the star that marks the end of the River, aka the constellation Eridanus.

If you live at a mid-northern latitude, you can see only a portion of the constellation Eridanus. Notice on this chart that the star Achernar doesn’t appear. Via AlltheSky

Achernar is the flattest star known. Read more about Achernar here.

Now back to the January evening sky. The chart above is almost just like the January 23 chart. But we’ve changed our observing location. Normally, our charts are set for the geographical center of the continental U.S. – say, the latitude of Wichita, Kansas (about 37 degrees N). The chart above is set to the extreme southern U.S. or similar latitudes around the world.

It’s as if we’re gazing at stars from this southerly latitude in the Northern Hemisphere . . . maybe along the Texas/Mexico border, or from the Florida Keys, or from the latitude of some great cities around the world including Miami in the U.S., Taipei in China, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, or Muscat in Oman. From the latitude of these cities (about 25 degrees N.), the bottom part of constellation Eridanus the River may be seen just above the southern horizon. It’s from this latitude, or farther south on Earth’s globe, that you can see the famous star that marks the end of the River. The star is called Achernar.

Achernar – the star marking the end of the celestial River Eridanus – is very bright. But, bright or not, you’ll never see it anywhere but right next to the southern horizon if you’re observing from the extreme southern U.S., or a similar latitude. And you won’t see it at all from a more northerly latitude. That’s because this star is located very far to the south on the celestial sphere, the imaginary dome of stars surrounding Earth.

Find Achernar’s rising and setting time in your sky

Achernar makes only a tiny arc above the southern horizon from the southern U.S., so you have to be looking at just the right time to see it – for example, at nightfall and early evening tonight. Achernar – if you see it, you’ll never forget it!

Bottom line: On Monday morning – January 27, 2014 – you’ll find the moon as a waning crescent in the east before dawn. The bright reddish star next to Monday morning’s moon is Antares, Heart of the Scorpion in the constellation Scorpius. The bow of the waning moon points downward toward Venus, which is visible in the east shortly before dawn. In the late January evening sky – if you’re in the extreme southern U.S., or farther south – you can see the star Achernar, the end of the River in the constellation Eridanus.

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