This is a month of planetary changes. Both Mercury and Venus appear just above the western horizon during the first few days of the month. However, by the 8th, Venus will have disappeared having reached conjunction with the Sun only to appear just above the eastern horizon on the morning of the 10th. Mercury lingers and continues to rise above the western horizon nearing the planet Saturn on the 12th. After that it plunges toward the horizon heading for conjunction with the Sun on the 23rd. It reappears in the morning sky just above the horizon on the 30th.
Jupiter and Saturn, both visible in the early evening, continue their slow march towards the western horizon. Early in the evening on New Year’s Day, Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury are in a line above the western horizon. See if you can spot all three about a half hour after sunset. Binoculars may help you pick out Mercury.
Mars continues its slow early morning rise above the eastern horizon. Joined by the waning crescent Moon and Venus on the 29th, the trio forms a nice line just above the horizon. Again, binoculars would help you enjoy this alignment.
The Moon will be new on the 2nd, first quarter on the 9th, full on the 17th, and last quarter on the 25th. Looking southwest on the 3rd, about 30 minutes after sunset, the new crescent Moon can be found just below Mercury and just barely above the horizon. On the 4th, at about the same time, the crescent Moon will be just to the left of Saturn. On the 5th, the crescent Moon will be just below Jupiter. On the morning of the 29th, about 30 minutes before sunrise, the waning crescent Moon will be to the right of a trio of planets, Mars, Venus and Mercury.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions there will not be a first Saturday star party at the Etscorn Campus Observatory.
New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club