The brightest point of light at dusk is Venus in the west. Second-brightest is Jupiter, much higher in the east-southeast. Look to the right of Jupiter by two or three fists at arm’s length for Procyon. Look the same distance lower right of Procyon and there’s the evening’s third-brightest point, Sirius.
Have another look for Comet Lovejoy! This evening it’s just a fraction of a degree from Delta Cassiopeiae, the second-dimmest star of Cassiopeia’s W pattern. The comet is still 6th magnitude and fading more slowly than predicted. Nor is there bothersome moonlight in the evening sky. See Bob King’s Catch Comet Lovejoy in Cassiopeia with a quickie naked-eye chart to find the right star in Cassiopeia, or Comet Lovejoy Shines On with a finder chart for every evening in March. You’ll need good binoculars or a low-power telescope. Plan to go out right after dark, when Cassiopeia is still high.
On the traditional divide between the winter and spring sky is dim Cancer, marked this year by Jupiter. Wintry Gemini is to its west, and Leo of spring is to its east. Don’t be too distracted by Jupiter; Cancer also hosts the Beehive Star Cluster, M44, in its middle. Look for it 6° to Jupiter’s upper right after dark. That’s about the width of a binocular’s field of view.
You know the season is shifting. As the stars come out, the Big Dipper standing on its handle in the northeast is now as high as Cassiopeia standing on end in the northwest. The Dipper is rising into spring and summer, and Cas is descending from its high showing in fall and winter.
On Friday morning the 13th, the last-quarter Moon shines to the left of Saturn and the head of Scorpius before and during dawn.
The eclipsing variable star Algol should be at minimum brightness, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours tonight centered on midnight EDT; 9 p.m. PDT. Algol takes several additional hours to fade and to re-brighten.
Before and during dawn Thursday morning the 12th, the waning Moon poses near Saturn, as shown here. Look for Antares below them.
Jupiter this month forms a big, more-or-less equilateral triangle with Procyon and Pollux. Face southeast soon after dark, and Procyon is to Jupiter’s right. Pollux is high above them.
Procyon is also part of the slightly larger Winter Triangle just to the west, also equilateral. Its other stars are orange Betelgeuse and bright Sirius below.
Ganymede, Jupiter’s biggest moon, enters onto Jupiter’s face at 10:10 p.m. EDT and exits at 1:47 a.m. EDT. Its black shadow trails almost three hours behind, crossing Jupiter from 1:05 to 4:43 a.m. EDT. (Subtract 3 hours to get Pacific times; this event is more convenient for the West Coast.)
Now that the Moon is gone from the early-evening sky, have another look for Comet Lovejoy! It’s crossing Cassiopeia and still 6th magnitude, this means it will be visible in most decent sized telescopes, fading more slowly than predicted. Plan to go out right after dark. See article and finder chart: Comet Lovejoy Shines On.
Little Mars has sunk to 6° below Venus now in the west at dusk. The gap between them will continue to widen until Mars finally becomes lost in the sunset in late April.
Daylight-saving time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday morning for most of the U. S. and Canada. Clocks spring ahead one hour.