Happy New Year, High Desert sky watchers!
In December, I advised that we will live to see 2013. For the new year, I plan to make my Desert Evenings column even more interesting. But first, let's tackle unfinished business.
The winter months are the best to begin your exploration of the evening sky — if you bundle up against the night chill. Overhead early is Taurus (the bull) and Jupiter (our only evening "star"). The reddish star close to Jupiter is Aldebaran (the "eye" of the bull). Nearby is a faint patch of stars called the Pleiades, the "seven sisters," although the eye can make out only five of them. Through binoculars there are a lot of them. It's actually a nebula.
Closer to the south is Orion (the "mighty hunter"), which has a very identifiable hourglass shape. Even closer to the south is Canis Major (the "big dog") and the brightest star in Earth's sky, Sirius (the "dog star").
As stated, Jupiter is our only evening "star" at the moment. Venus is now too close to the sun to be easily viewed, as is Mars. Saturn is the only remaining morning "star," in Libra (the scales). Planet Earth reaches perihelion today, and at pre-dawn on Saturday, the Quadrantid. We'll be exploring Jupiter, the next planet in line, in February. Happy New Year!