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Morning sky delights

Several bright planets adorn January’s morning sky, as does the impressive Quadrantid meteor shower on the 4th.
Waxing Moon
Five planets adorn January’s morning sky — the same quintet of “wanderers” (Mercury to Saturn) our ancient ancestors recognized as being different from the background stars. A highlight of the month comes on the 9th when Venus passes closer to Saturn than it has in 10 years. The evening sky hosts the outer two major planets, Uranus and Neptune, which were too faint for our forebears to see.

Mercury pulls off a rare trick in January. It shows up nicely both after sunset and before sunrise. Our solar system tour begins with the planet’s appearance at dusk during the month’s first week. You can spot Mercury low in the southwest on the first night of 2016 when it stands about 10° high a half-hour after sunset.

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