The red planet Mars will continue to dominate the early evening sky while being almost directly overhead at sunset. As the distance between Earth and Mars increases it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern Mars’ surface features, even with moderate-sized telescopes. Nevertheless, Mars will be quite visible in the evening sky for some time to come.

Jupiter and Saturn remain tightly paired as they approach the western horizon. However, by the end of the month, both gas giants will be lost to our view. Saturn reaches conjunction with the Sun on the 23rd, followed by Jupiter on the 28th. Both will reappear in the early morning in late February.

Tiny Mercury puts in a brief appearance above the southwestern horizon on the 9th. Clear skies and binoculars may reveal a triangle consisting of Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn on that date.

Venus is drawing ever closer to the eastern horizon. Shining at magnitude -3.9, Venus and the waning crescent Moon reach conjunction on the 11th, with only 4 degrees separating them.

The Moon will be last quarter on the 6th, new on the 13th, first quarter on the 20th, and full on the 28th. Looking to the southeast on the 11th, about 30 minutes before sunrise, brilliant Venus and the waning crescent Moon rise together above the horizon. Looking southwest on the 14th, about 30 minutes after sunset, the new crescent Moon will be just above and to the left of tiny Mercury and giant Jupiter. Look overhead on the 20th and 21st, about one hour after sunset, and watch as the first quarter Moon passes below Mars.

Stay safe and clear skies!

Jon Spargo, New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club