This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through February 10th, 2016. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The rare line-up of all five bright planets across the morning sky continues. The best time to look, through the 10th, is between 5:50 a.m. and 6:15 a.m., when the bright planets are all at least five degrees above the horizon and before the dawn’s glow is strong enough to make some of them hard to see. During this favorable time, the planets can be seen in a line that extends more than 120 degrees across the southern sky, from low in the east-southeast to high in the west-southwest. In order, from left to right, are the planets Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter. Two bright stars are also noticeable close to the planets. Red Antares of Scorpius the Scorpion, is visible below Saturn in the southeast, and the blue-white star Spica, of Virgo the Maiden, shines in the southwest between Mars and Jupiter. White Venus is the brightest planet, while pale-yellow Jupiter is the second brightest. Mars has a strong orange hue, and Saturn appears golden. Mercury appears white and brighter than Saturn. The waning crescent moon will offer attractive opportunities to skywatchers and photographers as it nears Venus on the 5th and appears above Mercury and to the left of Venus on the 6th. If you have a very low horizon to the east-southeast, you will be able to see the moon to the left of Mercury and the rest of the planetary line on the 7th, just before the brightening sky hides it from view. More information about the line-up of bright planets is available on our special webpage.
If you have a telescope, be sure to look at the cloud features of Jupiter as well as the giant planet’s four largest moons. Jupiter is now the only bright planet that can be seen before midnight, and is noticeable in the east by about 8:30 p.m. A telescope also will let you see Saturn’s magnificent rings. Mars is very distant and currently is very tiny through any telescope, but a much better chance to observe it will come in May, when it will be three times closer to the earth and look three times wider through a telescope than it does now.
The moon is new on the 8th and launches into the evening sky as a waxing crescent on the following evening. Look for it then, low in the west-southwest, starting at 6:00 p.m. By the 10th, the moon will be visible until it sets at 8:13 p.m.
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 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 13th.
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