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Stargazing

For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me want to dream. – Vincent Van Gogh

CURRENT PLANETS IN THE CONSTELLATIONS

January 9 – 14, 2023

Mercury is hidden in the glow of sunrise as it continues to retrograde in Capricorn.

Venus, very bright at magnitude –3.9, shines low in the west in twilight in Aquarius. It sets by twilight’s end. As twilight fades and Venus gets lower, look for dimmer Saturn coming into view to Venus’s upper right. They’re drawing toward each other; 18° separates Venus and Saturn on January 6th, only 10° by the 13th. They’re on their way to a close conjunction, 1/3° apart, on January 22nd.

Mars, is station in Gemini before it goes direct on January 12, 2023, shines high in the east at dusk and near the zenith as you face south by 9 p.m. Mars continues to fade slowly, from magnitude –1.0 to – 0.8 this week, as it shrinks from 14 to 13 arcseconds wide. Mars-colored Aldebaran, mag +0.8, is about 8° below it.

Jupiter, in Aries shines high in the south-southwest in twilight, then sinks toward the southwest. Jupiter sets around 11 or midnight. Telescopically, it has shrunk to 38 arcseconds wide.

Look for the Great Square of Pegasus to Jupiter’s upper right through the evening. Extend the line of the Square’s upper left side down past the planet. This week Jupiter is still a trace west of that line. It will cross the time on January 23rd. To help judge this, hold a straightedge up to the sky or stretch a string tightly between your two hands.

Saturn, in Aquarius, is getting low in the southwest at nightfall, far lower right of Jupiter and closing in on Venus. Saturn sets around 7 or 8 p.m.

In late twilight look about two fists at arm’s length to Saturn’s left for Fomalhaut, and about three fists to Saturn’s right for Altair.

Uranus, in Taurus is retrograde and moving back high across the south during evening. It displays a tiny, very slightly blue-greenish gray disk 3.6 arcseconds wide. It a telescope at high power it’s obviously non-stellar.

Neptune, magnitude 7.9 in Pisces border about 9° west of Jupiter, gets lower through the evening ahead of Jupiter. Go for it right after dark. Neptune is just 2.3 arcseconds wide, again non-stellar in a telescope but requiring more effort than Uranus. It’s slightly bluish gray, if you have enough aperture to show color at all in something this faint.

Pluto, is moving through the last degrees of Capricorn.

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