The planet that inspired us as the Evening Star through much of 2013 began the New Year following close to the setting sun and vanished into the sunset radiance early this week. Tomorrow, Saturday the 11th, Venus arrives at conjunction. It will be aligned between the sun and Earth, invisible. Our neighbor planet will return to view on the opposite horizon in a fortnight. As Morning Star, it will rise in the twilight, leading the sun.

Planet Jupiter has, in the meantime, consolidated its reign in the night sky. The king of the planets arrived at opposition to the sun, and registered its brightest appearance for 2014, on the 5th. As viewed from Earth, Jupiter appeared opposite our star at sunset and sunrise. It continues to rise in the east-northeast as the sun sets in the southwest. Now the brightest star-like object in the sky, the great planet travels the heavens all night in the constellation Gemini, always seen in the company of the twin stars, Castor and Pollux.

The Gemini twins are clearly discernable as human figures sketched in stars; however, only the two distant suns that mark their heads, and a foot star, are "first magnitude." These are bright enough to be seen even in many light-polluted cities. Brilliant Jupiter appears as, perhaps, the belly button in the middle of the figures and of the triangle sketched by the three bright stars. At the top, Pollux is brightest, with Castor to the right; Athena marks the foot.


Although Gemini and its distinguished planet Jupiter can be seen setting in the west-northwest as day dawns in the coming days, by the end of the month they will be setting earlier, before many of us awaken.

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