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Mars starts the New Year in Virgo as a mag. +1.2 morning object that rises between 2am and 3am local time from northern temperate latitudes. Even better for observers further south, the planet rises slightly earlier than this. At this time of morning, the view towards the east / southeast has first magnitude star Spica (α Vir - mag. +1.0) positioned 7 degrees southwest of Mars with brilliant Jupiter (mag. -2.2) located higher up in the sky. Later in the night - but before sunrise - even brighter Venus (mag. -4.0) along with Saturn (mag. +0.6) both rise above the eastern horizon.

On January 3rd, the waning crescent Moon passes 5 degrees north of Spica at 4 UT then passes 1.5 degrees south of Mars at 19 UT. The trio form a wonderful pairing on the mornings of January 3rd and 4th.

View towards the SE in the early hours of the morning on January 3rd from mid Northern latitudes (credit:- Stellarium)

View towards the SE in the early hours of the morning on January 4th from mid Northern latitudes (credit:- Stellarium)

View towards the East in the early hours of the morning on January 3rd from mid Southern latitudes (credit:- Stellarium)

View towards the East in the early hours of the morning on January 4th from mid Southern latitudes (credit:- Stellarium)

See also

The Planets this Month - January 2016