Has the Winter Sky gone to the dogs? No but find two this week!

Orion’s two dogs in the evening, and the elusive planet Mercury in the morning, what more could you ask for this week.  I’m an admitted dog lover having two at home, and whenever I look in the winter sky at Orion’s dogs, I think of them following me. Here is your guide to the sky for January 15-21, 2017 – do check out how to find the dogs in the constellation of the week!

Sun – Earth – Moon

Last Quarter Moon takes place on Thursday at 5:14pm while the Moon is at Apogee (its farthest point from the Earth) on Saturday.  Sunrise this week is at 7:07 am and sunset at 4:25 pm, on average this week we gain 2 minutes of sunlight per day.


Venus and Mars shine in the southwest after sunset this week watch over the next week as the two continue to get closer together in the sky.  Jupiter rises just after 11:30 pm look for it making a nice pair with the Moon on Thursday when the two are 3 degrees apart in the sky. Mercury reaches greatest elongation on Thursday as well, rising at 5:35 am making it the best day to try and catch it in the eastern sky before sunrise. Saturn will rise about 45 minutes prior to Mercury, a small telescope 2 inches in diameter will reveal its spectacular rings.

Constellation of the Week

Our tour of the Winter sky continues and Orion is a great guide as he was last week as well.  This time use his belt and follow it downward to the East and it points to Sirius which is sometimes called the “Dog Star” since it marks part of Canis Major.  Sirius is the brightest star we see in our skies after the Sun and is a brilliant white color.  Sirius marks the collar of the dog, and if you look just above it there are three stars which mark the dogs head.  From Sirius head down toward the horizon and you will find some dimmer stars that make a basic stick figure of a dog.  Orion has a small dog as well called Canis Minor which can be found drawing a line from Orion’s shoulders and going to the east to you come to Procyon a bright star.  Procyon and the dim star next to it make up the little dog, which really looks like a “hotdog” given it is hard to draw a real dog with only two stars!  Orion’s dogs are his faithful companions and will follow him on his hunts across the sky.

Satellites to see

The International Space Station makes a bright pass on Sunday and Wednesday mornings.  Sunday see it from 6:13 to 6:19 am moving from northwest to southeast.  Wednesday watch for it from 5:15 to 5:18 am moving from south to southeast.  On Saturday, January 21st try spotting the Chinese Tiangong 2 from 6:27 to 6:33 am moving from southwest to East.

That’s a wrap for this week – get out there and take a look.  For a live guided tour of the night sky, join me at the Emera Astronomy Center for one of our regular programs on Friday nights at 7pm (see the schedule here) or the Sunday afternoon children’s program at 2pm geared for family audiences.  For now, keep your eye on the sky!

Shawn Laatsch

About Shawn Laatsch

Shawn Laatsch is the director of the Emera Astronomy Center and Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine. He started his astronomy education career in 1984 and has directed planetariums in university and science center facilities, taught undergraduate astronomy courses, and given numerous lectures around the globe. He serves as President (2017 & 2018) of the International Planetarium Society, Inc. the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals. Shawn has a passion for sharing astronomy and stargazing with people of all ages.