On the third day of the New Year, a newly minted, 2-day-old crescent moon floats in the southwest above planet Venus, which is soon to disappear as Evening Star and, late this month, to reappear as Morning Star. Saturday, the 4th, Earth is at perihelion, closest to the sun in its yearly, oval orbit around our star. On the 5th, planet Jupiter is brightest for the year and travels the sky from sunset to sunrise.

The Quadrantid meteor shower ushered in 2014 with nature’s fireworks during the pre-dawn hours today. The Quadrantids, the first meteor shower every year, often appear as fireballs and vivid, long-trailing streaks. Catching incidental shooting stars is possible whenever outdoors under a dark sky and especially in the days before and after a meteor shower. If you missed the Quadrantids there may be an online record at NASA’s http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc

There’s an abundance of night as January begins and almost an hour more daylight at month’s end. The darkest mornings began last Sunday, Dec. 29, and continue until next Thursday, the 9th. Sunrise is at 7:22, the latest of the year. Though early winter mornings may seem breathtakingly frigid, the celestial spectacle at dawn is more breathtakingly beautiful, warming the intellect, heart and spirit. Layers of wool and goose down from head to toe make for a luxuriously comfortable stargazer!

Adventuring out at 6:30 a.m., eyes to the sky find the Big Dipper overhead, its handle arcing to red-orange Arcturus, the Herdsman. A great triangle stretches from the red giant star to tawny Mars on the lower right, with Saturn below. The star between Mars and Saturn is Spica. Search low to the west for brilliant Jupiter, looking as if it is suspended from the twin stars Castor and Pollux on two imaginary tethers.

To contact Judy Isacoff go to: www.naturesturn.org