The sky: January 22-28; Full moon and springtime Leo in the East

Special to, January 22, 2024

Excerpts from weekly Sky&Telescope report.


■ The gibbous Moon shines in a starry area of the winter sky. Face east in early evening. Upper left of the Moon sparkles bright Capella. A little farther upper right of the Moon is orange Aldebaran. Lower left of the Moon are Castor and Pollux. Lower right of the Moon is orange Betelgeuse, in the shoulder of Orion.


■ Full Moon (exactly full at 12:54 p.m.). The Moon this evening forms a long, not quite straight line with Procyon, the Little Dog Star off to its right, and Sirius, the Dog Star proper, a similar distance to Procyon’s right or lower right.

■ It’s still only January, but Leo the springtime Lion is already poking up in the east after dinnertime. Leo hosts the bright Moon for the next couple of nights, as shown below.

Moon and Regulus rising, Jan. 25-27, 2024FRIDAY, JANUARY 26

■ As soon as it’s fully dark, spot the equilateral Winter Triangle in the southeast. Sirius is its brightest and lowest star. Betelgeuse stands above Sirius by about two fists at arm’s length. To the left of their midpoint is Procyon.

Can you discern their colors? Sirius (spectral type A0) is cold white, Betelgeuse (M2) is yellow-orange, and Procyon (F5) is much a pale yellowish white.

■ Mercury and fainter Mars have a very difficult conjunction just above the southeast horizon as Saturday’s dawn grows bright, as shown below. You’ll need an open horizon and optical aid, maybe powerful aid.

Venus guides the way to the Mercury-Mars conjunction. The visibility of faint objects low in the brightening dawn is exaggerated here.


■ The biggest well-known asterism (informal star pattern) is the Winter Hexagon. It now fills the sky toward the east and south these evenings.

Start with brilliant Sirius at its bottom. Going clockwise from there, march up through Procyon, Pollux and Castor, Menkalinan and Capella on high, over and down to Aldebaran, then to Rigel in Orion’s foot, and back to Sirius. Betelgeuse shines inside the Hexagon, off center.


■ After dark now the Great Square of Pegasus is sinking low in the west, tipped onto one corner. Meanwhile, the Big Dipper is creeping up in the north-northeast, tipped up on its handle.

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