Weekly Stargazing Tips

Unless otherwise specified, viewing times are local time regardless of time zone, and are good for the entire Lower 48 states (and, generally, for Alaska and Hawaii). Check out last week's tips if you missed a night.

Time Bombs

Several time bombs are in view this evening. The list includes most of the bright stars of Orion, which is low in the west, plus Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, in the southeast. All of these stars are destined to explode as supernovae.

Moon and Venus

Venus, the “morning star,” perches just to the lower left of the crescent Moon at dawn tomorrow. As long as you have a clear eastern horizon you just can’t miss them.

61 Virginis

61 Virginis is one of the nearest star systems with known planets. Under dark skies, the star is bright enough to see with the unaided eye. It is a little below Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, which is due south a couple of hours after sunset.

Beta Coma Berenices

Tonight, you can see a star that shows us roughly what the Sun would look like seen from 30 light-years away. That’s how far it is to Beta Comae Berenices, a Sun-like star that’s south of the Big Dipper’s handle in the faint constellation Coma Berenices.

Loopy Planet

Bright orange Mars is high in the southeast at nightfall. Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, is close to its lower left. Mars is moving away from Spica, but soon will head toward the star as it completes its retrograde motion across the sky.

Distant Planets

The two most distant planets that are easily visible to the unaided eye bracket the sky late this evening. Jupiter, which is the brightest object in the sky at that time, is in the west around 10 p.m., with golden Saturn low in the east-southeast.

New Moon

The Moon is new today as it slips between Earth and the Sun, beginning a new cycle of phases. It will return to view as a thin crescent quite low in the west shortly after sunset tomorrow evening.

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