26 December 2010

Shimmering Early Morning Sky

As we approach the latest sunrise of the year (January 4th at 7:25 am in San Francisco), the morning sky remains dark enough to see stars until well after 6:00 am. That means that the early riser is rewarded with some lovely sights to close out 2010 and welcome 2011. Brilliant Venus dominates the sky each morning, shining bright in the South-East well before dawn. This week the waning Moon presents a changing landscape as it moves past Saturn, the bright star Spica (see diagram on the right), and then later in the week Venus and Mercury. Following the Solstice-Total-Lunar-Eclipse, the Moon is tracking downward on the Ecliptic, meaning that each Morning it is following the planets from high in the sky on a steep angle toward the horizon.

If you are not an early riser, don't despair. I'll have a post about the Winter skies soon. All you have to do is look up (especially if you are up at midnight on New Year's Eve and have clear skies). The Winter is a fantastic time to enjoy the stars.

Image courtesy of Sky and Telescope Magazine.

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