Skies for January and February 2004

The brilliant winter stars are still with us with Orion high in the south at sunset, but way out in the west about half way up that's not a star but the planet Venus, now the brightest planet in the sky since Mars has dimmed considerably as it heads towards the West.

High in the East just after the sun set you will see another bright planet, Saturn, which is a deep yellow color and is seen near the almost full moon both in January and February. It is about the brightness of Mars, but far more pale in color from the red planet or brilliant blue-white Venus in the West.

Rising in the East just before midnight is another bright planet, Jupiter, which is closer to a yellow-white, but no where near the brilliance of Venus while out shinning both Saturn and Mars.

By the end of February Jupiter will be in opposition to the sun, rising in the East as the sun sets and setting in the West at sunrise.

Both Saturn and Mars keep heading towards the West, were they will join with Venus in the springtime.

All of these planets are well placed for easy eye observations. Good binoculars will show a bit of the rings of Saturn or possibly the four larger moons of Jupiter close to the bright planet. In even a small telescope of say 50 power you can easily see Saturns rings and the disk of Jupiter, along with the half and crescent phases of Venus.

Venus (the bright white dot in the sky near the top center of this picture) as seen in the West just after sunset. Issues photo.

Venus will never get higher than 45 degree above the Western sky. It is heading toward greatest elongation and after that shrinks down into the western glare heading back into the morning sky later in the spring near summertime.

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