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Arizona skywatchers will be treated by Mars, Jupiter and moon this month

(Flickr/Oleksii Leonov)

Early-morning observers looking to the southeast sky just before dawn are being treated to an amazing close conjunction of Mars and Jupiter.

These two planets were closest in Arizona skies back on Saturday morning, when the pair were separated by less than 1/3 of a degree.

However, the rapid motion of both of these planets will still offer us an opportunity to view them in close proximity.

Pay attention Thursday morning, when both Mars and Jupiter will have a fat, waning crescent moon nearby. The moon and planets will be some 60 degrees ahead of the rising sun.

This is a great time to get out those binoculars and telescopes that might be collecting dust on your shelf and go experience some amazing sights in our Arizona skies!

Jupiter will become a major sight in our skies this year when it reaches opposition May 8.

Mars will start its amazing march towards the Earth and come closest to us — some 35 million miles — in July, the nearest the planet has been since 2003.

The biggest and best event of all this month has to be the upcoming total lunar eclipse that we will experience in Arizona early on Jan. 31.

The eclipse will be best seen as the moon moves into the full shadow of the Earth beginning at 5:51 a.m. local time. Maximum eclipse will occur at 6:30 a.m. and totality will end at 7:07 a.m.

The moon will be very low in the western sky at this time and you will need a clear view toward the horizon. It will set shortly after the eclipse.

At the time of maximum totality, the moon will appear some 10 degrees above the horizon. This makes for great eclipse photography!

This eclipse is called the Super Blue/Blood Moon by some, as the second full moon in a calendar month is often referred to as a Blue Moon and the blood-red color of totality and the close proximity of the moon to perigee.

An event like this has not occurred in about 150 years.

Finally, the moon will occupy the same general region in the sky in which the sun was located during the August eclipse.

Here is your very own January 2018 sky map to help locate many of the objects and events listed above.


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