We are moving along a couple of pretty clear and very cold nights. While many of you might boast a fire, an avalanche courtyard astronomers will pack and head out.
Winter is one of the best seasons for observing the stars, constellations, and planets. In June, July and August, the entire earth faces the center of the Milky Way galaxy. We look at the combined light of billions of stars. The combined light of such distant stars gives the sky a dim quality.
The night sky in December, January and February is clearer and sharper, because we see the opposite way – far from the center of the galaxy. There are fewer stars among us and extragalactic space.
Our break from the late weeks between the time systems is perfectly timed. On Friday morning, on January 31, and perhaps even on Saturday morning, the moon's weak moon will slip from the planets Jupiter, Venus, and if you are happy to see it, Saturn.
The moon first rises, followed by Jupiter, then Venus and, of course, Saturn. Given the clear sky and the undistinguished horizon in the direction of sunrise, it will be easy to catch the moon, Venus and Jupiter. Then just look. The planets and the moon will still be there, and the luminous side of the moon will point in the direction of Saturn. Saturn is now returning to the east before dawn. It's still not very prominent and will be fairly low on the horizon, so you may have a problem to see, but it's worth a try – a chance to see that Saturn is quite exciting.
On Friday morning, the moon and Saturn will be very close to the southern sky. This should facilitate the discovery. On Friday, the moon will be 27 days old, which means it will be the smallest fever on a snowy moon and only five percent will be lit. The old moon – as it is known – will not cause very light pollution to interfere with your ability to see Saturn.
If you happen to notice other diamonds in the sky and wonder what might be, this little trick can help: the stars shiver – the planets do not.
Stars are so far away from Earth that the precision of light is fine and becomes distorted by the Earth's atmosphere. The planets are closer to us and have a wider point – the edges are twisted, but not the center point – so the planets do not flash.
Do you have a time question, a picture or a drawing for sharing with Cindy Day? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.