This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through January 25th, 2017. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The planet Venus is brilliant in the south-southwest sky after sunset, and is visible well before sunset if the sky is clear. Venus currently displays a crescent phase through telescopes.
The orange-hued planet Mars is visible to the upper left of Venus where it can be seen easily starting 30 minutes after sunset. Both planets set in the west shortly after 9:00 p.m.
The second brightest planet, Jupiter, is the eye-catching object low in the east at midnight, and it slowly arcs to a position high in the south at dawn. Jupiter is in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, and is 4 degrees north of Virgo’s brightest star, Spica. Jupiter’s four largest moons are visible through binoculars, and a small telescope can reveal the banded structure of Jupiter’s clouds.
The ringed planet, Saturn, in the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent-Bearer, is best seen during the dawn, at about 6:00 a.m., over the southeast horizon. Saturn’s golden hue contrasts with the red tint of the star Antares, the brightest star of the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion and located fourteen degrees to the upper right of Saturn. A telescope is needed to see the spectacular rings and brightest moons of Saturn.
At 6:00 a.m., an imaginary line from Antares through Saturn will bring you to the planet Mercury. Mercury will appear a little brighter than Saturn, but is less than a third as high in the sky as Saturn. A telescope used at high magnification will reveal the gibbous phase currently displayed by Mercury.
The waning moon is last quarter on the 19th, when it appears near Jupiter. It is crescent on following mornings. It appears close to Saturn on the 24th, and is five degrees above Mercury on the 25th.
The finest appearance of the International Space Station over Los Angeles through the 25th will happen on Friday morning, the 20th. The ISS will suddenly emerge from earth’s shadow, 68 degrees above the eastern horizon, at 5:14 a.m. and it will be visible for another three minutes as it descends to the southeast horizon. The orbiting space laboratory, currently home to an international crew of six, will appear nearly twice as bright as Jupiter.
Free views of the Sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday, before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the schedule. The next free public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, February 4th.
Follow the Sky Report on Twitter for updates of astronomy and space-related events.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at email@example.com.