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Skywatch - What's Up?

What’s In the Sky November 2016
Time Change: Set your clocks back one hour on Nov. 6 at 2 a.m.
Jupiter will be low and bright in the morning sky before sunrise and climb higher into the SW as the month progresses.
Venus shines bright during and after subset in the SW and remains in the sky about an hour or so after the sun goes down.
Saturn is just to the right of Venus at the beginning of the month, but moves rapidly to the west as the month progresses. It will no longer be visible in the evening as the month ends.
Mars is high in the SW, to the left of Venus. Look for its distinctive red color. It will also be moving toward the west as the month continues.
Orion’s large hourglass shape can easily be spotted before sunrise in the SW. By the end of December, it will begin to rise around 7 pm in the east.
The “squashed W” you see in the evening northern sky is Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia is another large constellation and is easy to spot.
Full Moon:    14th
New moon:  29th​

What to See in the Sky in October

Venus is visible will be low in the west, about the height of a one story house. But it will be only visible early after sunset. It is very bright and very easy to pick out.

Mars is the bright red disk in the southwest, about halfway up in the sky. It can easily be spotted in this area all month.

Saturn will be visible above and to the far right of Mars, forming a long narrow triangle with Antares (false Mars). Saturn is about two fist-lengths to the right of Mars.

Jupiter and Mercury will not be visible in the evening hours as they set before sun.

The bright star high in the southwest is Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes.

If you're an early riser, look to the south before sunrise and you can easily spot the large hourglass shape of Orion. The bright star to the lower left of Orion is Sirius.​

Where to See the Planets in September

Although Jupiter dominated the skies this summer, it is now rapidly setting in the West at sunset. It will no longer be visible in the evening after September 10th.

Venus is now visible in the evening and will be low in the west, about the height of a three or four story house. It is very bright and very easy to pick out.

Mars is the bright red disk in the south, about halfway up in the sky. It can easily be spotted in this area all month

Saturn will be visible above and to the right of Mars at the beginning of the month. Mars, Saturn and Antares (also known as "false Mars") will form a tight triangle at the beginning of the month. Saturn will begin to outpace Mars and head further to the west toward the end of the month. By mid-October, it will be visible halfway between Mars and Venus.

Mercury will be very close to the horizon at the beginning of the month and will not be visible for most of September.​

How to See the Planets in March

Jupiter is visible at sunset in the east and crosses the sky to the west during the night. It will be the brightest object in the east after sunset and will still be visible in the early morning hours until 5 a.m. or so.

Mars is visible in the early morning in the south. Look for its distinctive red disk in the early morning hours.  It's easy to pick out Mars between 5 and 5: 5:30 a.m. this month.

Saturn is also visible in the south. Saturn is dim and is a bit tricky to pick out. Look for Saturn the last week of the month when it will be nearing Mars (look to the left of Mars).

Venus and Mercury will be rising in the east just before sunrise and will be lost in the Sun's glow most of this month.

The bright star in the low western evening sky just as the Sun sets is Sirius. Sirius is the "nose" of the constellation Canis Major, the big dog, and is the brightest star in the sky.

Full Moon           March 23

New Moon         March 9​

Where to See the Planets in February

February is a planet-watchers delight! One small catch; you have to be an early riser and do your observing about a half hour before sunrise. But it will be well worth the effort -- all five naked eye planets will parade across the sky.

Mercury will be peeking over the horizon (just above small houses), low in the south. You'll need a fairly clear view of the horizon to be able to spot it.

Venus will be higher than Mercury and will be the brightest object in the sky (except for the moon).

Saturn comes next. It will be a little higher and to the west of Venus. Saturn may be tricky to pick out. Check out the diagram to see Saturn's position.

Mars will be the highest planet in the sky nearly due south. Look for its distinctive red color.

Jupiter will appear bright and lower than Mars to the west.

You should have no trouble picking out Venus and Jupiter, even after the sky begins to brighten prior to sunrise. As the month draws near the end, Venus will be sinking lower in the east while Jupiter sinks lower in the west.

The best mornings to see all the planets will be from the 5th through the 20th, especially around Valentine's Day. A crescent moon will also be visible above Venus on the 5th.

New Moon – 8th

Full Moon – 22nd​

February am sky.jpg

October, November 2015

How to see the planets in October and November

If you're an early riser, you'll not only be able to see three planets each morning, but you'll also be able to see an amazing planetary dance as the three worlds keep switching partners.

Venus, Mars and Jupiter will line up in the low eastern sky before sunrise all month. But the best part of the show begins on October 16 as Mars and Jupiter pass very close to each other.

On October 23, the three planets will form a close triangle.

Then it's time to switch partners. On the 24th through the 26th, Jupiter and Venus will pass close to each other.

On the 27th, the three planets again form a line across the sky.

On the 31st through Nov. 3rd, Mars and Venus will draw close to each other.

Daylight saving begins on November 1st.

On November 6th the Moon cuts in and dances next to Jupiter. On the 7th, you'll see the Moon just below Venus.

When planets come in close proximity to each other it's called a conjunction. In fact, the planets are millions of miles away from each other. They just appear close from our point of view as they happen to line up in their respective orbits. October's conjunctions will be quite remarkable and should not be missed.

​​September 2015

How to See this Sunday's Eclipse

The Moon will already be partially eclipsed when it rises at sunset on September 27. The moon will enter the total eclipse phase at 7:10 pm, but will still be quite low in the sky. It will remain in totality until about 8:20, and then be partially eclipsed for another hour.

Although it will be low in the sky for most of the eclipse, it will be visible in the eastern sky in southern California.

Will the Moon have a copper red glow or will it turn a deep brown? Check out the sky on Sunday night for the answer.


(Picture courtesy of Sky and Telescope: The Essential Guide to Astronomy)

Where and When to See the Planets in September

You'll have to be an early riser to see Venus, Mars and Jupiter this month.  Venus and Mars will be easy to pick out after 5:30 a.m. Venus will be prominent, the brightest object in the eastern sky, followed by red Mars. Jupiter rises just before the sun, so unless you have an unobstructed view of the horizon, you might not be able to spot it until the end of the month when it creeps higher into the sky. It will be higher and easier to spot in October.

Saturn is dim and not easy to locate. But if you go out on the night of September 18th, Saturn will be to the left and slightly below the crescent moon.

The Summer Triangle

As summer winds down, three constellation are prominent in the eastern sky: Lyra the harp, Aquila the eagle and Cygnus the swan (a.k.a., the Northern Cross). In the light polluted Orange County sky, you can pick out the most visible star of each constellation, as they are the only stars to really stand out. They make up what is called the "summer triangle." It is a large shape, and the three stars will be the brightest objects in the east after sunset.

Full Moon:  9.28

New Moon: 9.13

August 2015

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks August 12/13 with the Moon's light completely absent from the night sky.  Observers can expect to see up to 100 “shooting stars” per hour in darker areas.

For those who prefer viewing planets, the month has its own rewards. Evening twilight in early August offers glimpses of Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter. Then, once darkness settles in, beautiful Saturn takes center stage. 

The overnight hours belong to Neptune, which comes to opposition and peak visibility in August, and also to Pluto, which reached the same point relative to Earth just a month earlier.

Shortly before dawn at the end of August, Venus returns to view after a three-week pause while Mars comes back after a four-month hiatus.


June/July 2015                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    


Saturn puts on an impressive show during the warm nights of late spring and early summer. It reaches opposition and peak visibility May 22, when it lies opposite the Sun in our sky and remains visible all night. The planet then climbs higher in the evening sky during June, when observers with telescopes will get exceptional views of the planet’s beautiful ring system.


May 2015                                                                                                                            

Jupiter on December 30 ​                                                                                          ​

Jupiter can be observed high in the southwest evening sky. The brilliant planet shines until it sets around 2 a.m. PST

If you choose to take up some telescope observing, the most notable features of Jupiter are two dark belts that sandwich a brighter zone at the planet’s equator.


Mercury shines brightly in the evening sky during early May. 

Courtesy of Astronomy Magazine, the above star map shows how Mercury shines brightly in the evening sky during early May. You can find the innermost world to the lower right of brilliant Venus. Venus crossed the border from Taurus the Bull into Gemini the Twins on May 13th. Binoculars will provide the best view of this pretty conjunction.


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