Had a good show with Renee, Irish Greg and No Name at KFOG. The Morning Show is always a lot of fun, with twists and turns along the way. We talked about Astronomy apps, Aliens, Star Parties, Orion, Comet Lovejoy, Pluto and New Horizons, and more. Click here to listen.
Wednesday January 21st, a very slender young Moon and Venus form a compact group immediately after sunset. You'll need binoculars to spot this grouping, as the thin crescent Moon will be easily lost in the glare of the sunset sky, but bright Venus should be easier to spot. There's something magic about the sight of the thin crescent Moon, just barely glowing as a small bit of its illuminated side is visible to us, and that small light has to be seen through the glowing atmosphere with the refracted sunlight still filtering through it.
In San Francisco, the Sun sets around 5:20 pm so the view here should be accurate for 6:00 pm. You'll need a clear horizon due west to see this. Best of luck and happy viewing!
If you miss the view on Wednesday, look again on Thursday as the Moon sweeps past Mars.
The evening sky features a close encounter with the two inner planets, Venus and Mercury. When two celestial objects align, the visual effect is usually quite brilliant. Venus is 100s of times brighter than smaller and more distant Mercury, but nonetheless the two make an impressive pair this weekend. You'll need a clear view to the south-west just after sunset. Binoculars will make it faster and easier to locate the pair. The two planets will remain in close proximity for several days. And next week, the old Moon and Saturn will also have a close encounter. There's always much to see in the sky.
Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy has arrived in the night sky for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, and in the coming days promises to be a fine sight especially through binoculars or a telescope, shimmering in green light with a slight tail. The comet is on a trajectory around the Sun and will pass nearest to Earth on January 7th, but given the geometry of its path, it will be ideally placed for viewing over the next few weeks as it rises high into the southern sky and as the Moon moves from Full to Waning phase. The finder chart, courtesy of Sky & Telescope, shows the daily movement of the comet across the backdrop of stars.
Path of Comet Lovejoy
I had good success finding it on January 1st despite the glow of the Waxing Moon, and look forward to tracking it down as soon as the moonlight begins to fade in a week. Stay tuned for updates.
In 2005 I began writing a column for the San Francisco Waldorf School newsletter called "The Urban Astronomer." I started this blog in 2007 as a place to archive my articles and to offer additional insights on the night sky - even if you live in a big city. In 2008 I became an occasional guest on the KFOG Morning Show, and more recently on KALW and KGO. Archived shows are posted on the blog. I conduct private star parties for special events and corporate events. Contact me for details.