The morning sky before sunrise is always beautiful. The constellations that rise ahead of the sun foretell the evening sky several months later.
Now is a good time to enjoy the brightest planets.
If you look east at 5 a.m., you will be rewarded with the ever-brilliant Venus almost directly due east.
Below Venus, somewhat hidden in the morning twilight, is red Mars.
Jupiter is higher above the horizon and toward the southeast.
Venus is the third-brightest object in the sky, after the sun and the moon. Jupiter is the fourth-brightest. Sometimes Mars will be as bright as Jupiter, but not often.
In this, the International Year of Astronomy, it is all the more fun to look at Jupiter and wonder how surprised Galileo was when he turned his primitive telescope to observe Jupiter for the first time in 1609. His discovery of four satellites (now called the Galilean moons in his honor) circling Jupiter caused a fundamental change in the way mankind looks at itself and its place in the solar system.
Galileo's observations of the moon, Venus, the sun and the Milky Way with his telescopes, coupled with his writings, started the modern scientific revolution.
Jupiter has many moons, but most are too small and faint to be seen with ordinary telescopes. However, its Galilean moons are visible through the smallest of telescopes and are even visible in large binoculars, especially if the binoculars are held steady by a tripod. Give it a try.
Meet, stargaze with a comet hunter
Star Party at UA
Comet hunter and astronomer David Levy and his wife, Wendee, will celebrate the International Year of Astronomy with their annual Sharing the Sky Foundation fundraiser and star party.
The Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, the Flandrau Science Center and the local astronomical community will set up telescopes so that people can safely view the sun through solar-filtered telescopes during daylight hours, and the moon, Saturn, distant galaxies and stars after dark.
• When: 3:30 to 10 p.m Saturday.
• Where: On the UA Mall, next to Flandrau Science Center at 1601 E. University Blvd.
• Cost: Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
• More for kids: Educational, hands-on activities.
• Bonus: You can informally rename a star, and become a part of history, by signing the Levys' personal journal of people who have observed the night sky with them in this significant year.
• More info: sharingthesky.org
International Astronomy Day celebration in Tubac
In addition to skygazing and a variety of exhibitors, there will be hot-air balloon rides, "alien" musicians, space food and drinks, face painting, and a jumping space castle.
• When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.
• Where: Entrance to the Village of Tubac, 2221 E. Frontage Road in Tubac.
• Cost: Admission is free.