Weekly Sky Report
The Griffith Observatory Sky Report
This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through January 30, 2020. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
Venus, the brightest planet, gleams brilliantly in the southwest sky during the early evening until it sets at 8:30 p.m. On the 27th, the faint outer planet Neptune––too dim to be seen without a telescope––will be only 1/3 degree from Venus. This will make it unusually easy to find through telescopes because then both planets can fit together in the same telescopic field of view at up to about 120 power. Sunbathed Venus appears 90,000 times brighter than ghostly, remote Neptune.
The moon appears in the evening sky, near the west-southwest horizon and to the lower right of Venus on the 25th, and it is close to Venus in the sky on the 27th and 28th. By the 30th, the moon sets long after Venus, at 10:48 p.m.
The red star Betelgeuse has faded to the lowest brightness ever recorded. Betelgeuse represents the upraised shoulder of the constellation Orion, the mythological Hunter, and it marks the upper-left corner of the rectangle of bright stars that surrounds Orion’s Belt. Look for Orion as it moves from southeast sky at nightfall to the meridian high the south at about 9:30 p.m. Estimating the brightness of Betelgeuse is done by comparing it to other stars of known brightness; instructions on observing and recording the changing brightness of Betelgeuse (and other variable stars) are provided by the American Association of Variable Star Observers, or AAVSO for short.
At 5:30 a.m., the bright orange star Antares and fainter stars of the constellation Scoripus the Scorpion appear with the planet Mars low above the southeast horizon. Mars is the second brightest object in the grouping, and it is located to the lower left of Antares. The color of Mars is a close match to that of the star; the ancient Greek name Antares means the Rival of Mars.
By 6:00 a.m., Jupiter, now the second brightest planet, is easy to see near the east-southeast horizon, to the lower left of Mars and Antares.
Free views of the Sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday, before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the schedule. The next free public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, February 1st, between 2:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.