January 1 Planets and Moon Line Up in the Sky
Want to welcome 2019 in grand style? So happens, the year begins with an eye-catching celestial alignment that will light up the eastern sky at the first dawn of 2019. Watch the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury line up—and connect the dots! Here are Bob’s viewing tips.
Three planets and the crescent Moon will create a string of pearls early New Year’s morning. Maybe it’ll be easy to see, if your New Year’s Eve celebration runs very late.
- Some 40 minutes before sunrise on January 1 (at a quarter to 7 am or so), look in the direction of sunrise. Face into the brightening dawn. A clear, unobstructed view in that direction will be helpful. From all places, the base is in the southeast.
- You’ll see a slanted, diagonal line of bright celestial objects. The angle of that slant depends on where you live. From far southerly places, it’s almost vertical, and is fully upright for vacationers in the southern Caribbean. But from Alaska it’s a wimpy, nearly horizontal line barely clearing the southeastern horizon.
- At the highest point, look for the thin crescent Moon hovering in the sky.
- Then, look down and leftward for brilliant Venus, the very brightest “star” in all the heavens. You can’t miss it! Also known as the morning star, it is at its very brightest of the year right now.
- Then, extending that line from the Moon down to Venus takes us to Jupiter, the night’s 2nd brightest “star,” which is packed full of potential detail for the small telescope.The first three objects are so brilliant, dazzling, and high that they should be obvious even from city lights!
- Finally, let’s find Mercury. If you have a truly unblocked eastern view, follow that line down and leftward to where the elusive planet Mercury floats, not high above the horizon. If you see any “star” down in that spot, you’ve found it, because nothing else is there. It’s super-low and not dazzling like the others, but at magnitude zero it’s not faint.
Mercury is visible to the naked eye but it rises short before sunrise so it can get lost in the glare; use binoculars if you have them.
Speaking of sunrises, the latest sunrises of the year are actually happening now. See your local sunrise time on our handy calculator.
If you’re not up to greet the inaugural dawn of 2019, or if it’s cloudy that morning, the lineup will still be there for the first several mornings of the new year; the crescent Moon, a bit thinner, floats between Venus and Jupiter.
Still just as cool. And a good sign for amazing things to come!