Petoskey area astronomer Mick Groszko: planets put on morning show

‘LOOK UP! WHAT’S IN THE NIGHT SKY?’ GUEST COLUMNIST MICK GROSZKO

five planets in sky at onceIf we ever get to see a clear skies again, there is an ongoing parade of ALL the planets visible to the naked eye.

The leader of the parade is Jupiter which makes it appearance about 9:00 PM in the east.

At magnitude -2.4 it is more than twice as bright as the next brightest star which is Sirius.

Jupiter’s four Galilean moons can be seen through binoculars. Through a telescope you should be able to see the major cloud bands and if you’re lucky the giant red spot.

Go to your app store and download the free app “Sun, Moon and Planets” to help you identify the moons.

This will show you exactly the positions of the four moons at the time you are observing. I also contains a wealth of information on all the planets.

Next up is Mars. It rises about 1:00 AM.

Although not nearly as bright, it is easily identified by its reddish color. As the earth rotates under the starry, Saturn makes its appearance above the eastern horizon.

If you know anyone with a telescope, be sure to have a view of Saturn. It never fails to inspire. The rings are currently tilted 26 degrees to our line of sight so they put on quite a show.

Finally the two planets closer to the sun rise.

As both of these planets are inside of the earth’s orbit, they always appear as morning or evening stars.

If you go to the “Solar System” section of the “Sun, Moon and Planets” app you can see the positions of the various planets around the sun and why these two are always viewed in the same direction as the sun.

Venus will rise about two hours before the sun and about 20 minutes later Mercury will cross the eastern horizon.

There you have it.

All five naked eye planets in the sky at one time.

Now if we can get some clear skies we can all enjoy this.

The next meeting of the Northern Michigan Astronomy Club (NOMAC) will be February 11,2016 in room 311 HESC at North Central Michigan College at 7:30. Come and join us.


Mick Groszko is an amateur astronomer and astrophotographer in the Petoskey area and can be contacted at mgroszko1@aol.com

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