Vulpecula, the fox, rises in late evening. The constellation is quite faint. Its brightest star — a red giant more than 200 light-years from Earth — is visible to the unaided eye only from a dark location, away from city lights.
The planet Venus, which blazes as the “morning star,” perches quite close to the crescent Moon at dawn tomorrow. Venus is the brightest object in the night sky other than the Moon, so you can’t miss it.
Look for the Moon before sunrise tomorrow, with Venus, the “morning star,” to its lower left. Despite its moniker, Venus is a planet, not a star. In fact, it’s our closest planetary neighbor, passing as close as 27 million miles away.
The Big Dipper is high in the north as night falls, standing upside down. If you line up the two stars at the outer edge of the bowl and follow that line to the lower right, the first bright star you come to is Polaris, the North Star.
Vega, one of the harbingers of summer, peeks above the northeastern horizon by around 9 p.m. Vega is one of the brightest stars in the night sky, and one of our closest stellar neighbors, at a distance of about 25 light-years.
Cetus, the whale or sea monster, is in the south and southwest at nightfall. Its brightest star, Beta Ceti, is the second-brightest star in a wide swath of sky. It’s outshined only by Fomalhaut, which is quite low at that hour.
Camelopardalis, the giraffe, is one of the largest constellations, covering a big wedge of the northern sky. But it isn’t very bold. All of its stars are so faint that you need to get away from city lights to see them.
The Moon and two bright planets form a beautiful triangle at dawn tomorrow. Brilliant Jupiter stands to the right of the Moon, with fainter orange Mars close below them.
Venus will pass behind the Sun today, so it is lost from view in the Sun’s glare. It will return to view next month, when it will shine as the brilliant Evening Star.
The Moon is at last quarter today at 4:25 p.m. CST. Sunlight will illuminate half of the lunar hemisphere that faces Earth. The illuminated fraction will continue growing smaller until the Moon is new, on January 16.