If your New Year’s Eve celebration keeps going into the wee hours, you’ll be able to welcome 2019 in grand style. So happens, the year begins with an eye-catching celestial alignment. A brilliant apparition lights up the Eastern sky with the first dawn of the new year.
Look in the direction of sunrise at 6:45 a.m. Face into the brightening dawn. A clear, unobstructed view in that direction will be helpful, and those whose homes are perched on sunrise-facing hilltops have the ideal setup. Some of us may have to walk a few minutes to the nearest wide-open field.
You’ll see a slanted, diagonal line of bright celestial objects whose base is the southeast and whose highest point angles upper right of that. At the highest point hovers the thin waning crescent moon. To the moon’s lower left shines Venus, the very brightest “star” in all the heavens. Also known as the morning star, it is at its very brightest of the year right now. Extending that line from the Moon to Venus takes us to Jupiter, the night’s second-brightest “star,” which is packed full of potential detail for the small telescope.
These three are all up high enough to be obvious, even from city lights. But those with a truly unblocked eastern view can continue following 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.
If you’re not up to greet the inaugural dawn of 2019, or if it’s cloudy that morning, check out that same location a day later, January 2. The lineup will still be there except now the Moon, a bit thinner, will float between Venus and Jupiter.
Still very cool – and a good sign for amazing things to come.