I spent a few minutes with Irish Greg and No Name on the KFOG Morning Show talking about the view of all 5 'naked eye' planets in the morning sky this week. If you don't have good weather now, keep trying and at least 4 of the 5 will be visible over the coming weeks. Here's to clear skies! Click here to listen.
The five naked-eye planets are all visible to us in the pre-dawn sky. Four of them are easy targets, with bright Venus and Jupiter in the east and west, and red-orange Mars and off-white Saturn filling in the arc across the southern sky, as neatly outlined in the image from Sky & Telescope. The challenge will be for viewers to find fleet-footed Mercury as it moves in retrograde into view low in the southeast 45 minutes before sunrise. Mercury is a fairly unremarkable pinprick of light and is tougher still because of its proximity to the horizon and the light of dawn. But take the challenge and try to find this little gem that rounds out a massive arc from west to east for the next few days.
Mercury will fade from view fairly quickly at the end of January but the other four planets will shine brightly for the next few months in their current positions.
You'll want a clear southern horizon to see this lineup at its best. Look 30 to 60 minutes before sunrise. At present, sunrise in San Francisco is at 7:20 am.
In 2005 I began writing a column for the San Francisco Waldorf School newsletter called "The Urban Astronomer." I started this blog in 2007 as a place to archive my articles and to offer additional insights on the night sky - even if you live in a big city. In 2008 I became an occasional guest on the KFOG Morning Show, and more recently on KALW and KGO. Archived shows are posted on the blog. I conduct private star parties for special events and corporate events. Contact me for details.