We are on fairly clear and very cold nights. While many of you may prefer to nestle against a fire, the enthusiastic backyard astronomers are bundling outside.
Winter is one of the best seasons for observing stars, constellations and planets. In June, July and August, the entire earth is centered on the center of the Milky Way. We consider the combined light of billions of stars. The combined light of so many distant stars gives the sky a blurry quality.
The night sky in December, January and February is clearer and sharper because we are looking in the opposite direction ̵
Our late break between the weather systems is perfectly matched. On Friday morning, January 31, and possibly even Saturday morning, a slender, waning crescent will glide to the planets of Jupiter, Venus and, if you're lucky, Saturn.
The Moon rises first, followed by Jupiter and then Venus and finally Saturn. With clear skies and open horizon towards sunrise it will be easy to catch the Moon, Venus and Jupiter. Then just keep watching. The planets and the moon are still there and the illuminated side of the moon is pointing towards Saturn. Saturn returns east just before dawn. It's not very prominent yet and will be relatively low on the horizon, so you'll have a hard time seeing it, but it's worth a try – the chance of seeing Saturn is pretty exciting.
On Friday morning, the moon and Saturn will be very close to the southern sky. This should make it easy to spot. On Friday, the Moon will be 27 days old, which means that it is the smallest part of a waning moon and only five percent are lit. It is well known that the old moon does not cause much light pollution that interferes with your ability to see Saturn.
If you happen to discover other diamonds in the sky and wonder what they might be, this little trick might be helpful: stars sparkle – planets do not.
Stars are so far from Earth that the point of light is just as good and is distorted by the Earth's atmosphere. Planets are closer to us and have a wider point – the edges distort, but not the central point – so the planets do not sparkle.
Do you have a weather question, photo or drawing that you would like to share with Cindy Day? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy Day is the senior meteorologist on the SaltWire Network.