Star Gazing

January 3, 2017

January is a fantastic time of the year to spot the five brightest planets in our solar system -- all visible with the naked eye.
   --Venus is so bright that it pops out almost immediately after sunset and is easy to spot in the western sky in January after sunset, according to It's first visible after dusk and reaches its peak on January 12th
   --Mars is near Venus in the evening sky, but it's higher up and a much fainter reddish light. It sets in the west shortly after Venus does

   --Jupiter is the second-brightest planet in January and is the brightest object in the eastern half of sky between midnight and sunrise. Your best bet for catching Jupiter is to wake up before sunrise. Jupiter shines in front of the constellation Virgo, near Virgo's brightest star, Spica.
   --Saturn rises in the east about two hours before the sun in January. By the month's end, Saturn comes up several hours before sunrise. Saturn is the farthest planet that you can easily view with the eye alone. It appears golden in color and shines with a steady light. But if you want to see Saturn's rings, you'll need a small telescope.

   --Mercury will be visible very briefly just as the sun starts to come up, beginning next week. Spotting Mercury is tricky with the naked eye, but it is possible. If you look too soon, Mercury will be lost in the twilight glare; if you look too late, it will have followed the sun beneath the horizon. Look for Mercury low in the sky, and near the sunrise point on the horizon. Start looking 60 to 90 minutes before sunrise. Binoculars can help since Mercury is so hard to spot with the naked eye.