There were two nights with crystal clear skies and bright stars to observe the past weekend. Orion was in my FOV those evenings and Venus in before dawn. This week started with Christmas on Saturday. Artic air moved in and gave us cold nights and frosty mornings. But the clear skies did not last long. Clouds and warmer temperatures cover our sky. Rain is on the way this week and the stars will be behind the veil again. Next weekend and the start of the New Year, may bring another round of colder temps and clear skies, with a chance to observe.
Two famous "enclosure" asterisms lie upper right of Jupiter in the evenings: the small, dim Circlet of Pisces, and, farther on, the big, brighter Great Square of Pegasus. Also, far below Jupiter in early evening, look for Fomalhaut.
If the Clouds break:
Monday, Last-quarter Moon tonight (exact at 11:18 p.m. EST). The last-quarter Moon always rises around the middle of the night, in a constellation that won't appear high in the evening sky until one season ahead. In tonight's case the Moon is in Virgo, a constellation best known in spring. Look for Saturn to the Moon's left, as shown here (on the morning of the 28th).
Tuesday, Dawn and sunrise are now happening nearly as late by the clock as they're going to. Look southeast in early dawn Wednesday morning for the Moon, Saturn and Spica. For North America, Spica is just a few degrees from the Moon — upper left of the Moon at 3 a.m. and above the Moon by dawn. Saturn at dawn is off to their upper right. Venus, much brighter, shines far to the Moon's lower left.
Jupiter's Red Spot crosses Jupiter's central meridian around 8:35 p.m. EST this evening. The eclipsing variable star Algol is at its minimum light, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours centered on 9:58 p.m. EST this evening.
Wednesday, A small telescope, or steadily held binoculars, will show the 5.5-magnitude star 20 Piscium just 4 arcminutes (six Jupiter diameters) to Jupiter's south or southeast, looking like a very out-of-place Galilean moon. With a slightly larger telescope, here's a chance to compare Jupiter's moons at high magnification with a star. In good seeing, their non-stellar nature is fairly plain. And don't miss Uranus, magnitude 5.8, currently 50 arcminutes to Jupiter's north-northeast. It looks even more un-starlike at high power. During dawn Thursday morning, spot the waning crescent Moon with Venus to its left. Can you follow Venus with your unaided eyes right through sunrise?
Thursday, Venus is to the left of the crescent Moon and Spica is to the upper right of the Moon. Look to the SSE before sunrise.
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