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Last Week's Stargazing Tips

January 31: Moon, Mars, and Taurus

The Moon is especially close to a star with a dangerous-sounding name tonight: El Nath, “the butting one.” It marks the tip of one of the horns of Taurus. It’s the bull’s second-brightest star.

January 30: Moon and Mars

Mars and the Moon will play hide-and-seek for much of the year. The Moon will pass in front of the Red Planet four times, briefly hiding it from view. From the U.S., the best of those events takes place tonight. Mars will disappear from view from Florida across Texas to southern California.

January 29: Winter Circle

One of the biggest and brightest of the geometric figures in the night sky is the Winter Circle or Hexagon — a ring of seven bright stars, with Betelgeuse, the orange shoulder of Orion, as its hub. The figure is in the east and southeast as night falls.

January 28: Morning Mercury

The planet Mercury is in view in the early morning now. It’s farthest from the Sun in our sky, so it will hang around for a few days. It is in the southeast at first light, and looks like a bright star, although it’s so low that you need a clear horizon to spot it.

January 27: Tabit

Orion is filled with so many bright stars that some of them get ignored. An example is Tabit, the star at the middle of Orion’s shield. At nightfall, Orion’s three-star belt is in the southeast, pointing almost straight up. If you follow that line upward, Tabit is the first fairly bright star you come to.

January 26: Horologium

Horologium, the constellation that honors the first accurate mechanical clock, is visible from far-southern latitudes in mid-evening. The constellation’s stars are all faint, so you will need dark skies and a good starchart to find it.

January 25: Moon and Jupiter

Brilliant Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, stands just above the Moon this evening. It’s the brightest point of light in the night sky after Venus, the Evening Star. Jupiter has a giant family of moons, including four that are about the size of our moon or bigger.