Red Planet Rising

Looking east at dawn
If you're an early riser, you can use the Moon to find your way to an early sighting of Mars — which will blaze at opposition in the evening sky next Christmas. (These scenes are drawn for the middle of North America. European observers: move each Moon symbol a quarter of the way toward the one for the previous date.)
Sky & Telescope diagram.

Now that mornings are getting warmer, it's far less daunting to get out of your warm bed and do some early-morning stargazing. But if you need some added motivation to set that alarm, look no further than Mars.

The Red Planet is on the rise, appearing at first magnitude in the early-morning skies. Just look to the east at dusk. And if you are having trouble, this weekend the Moon helps guide your eye.

This is only the beginning. As the months roll on Mars will grow bigger and brighter in the sky. Right now it just looks like a bright red dot through a telescope, but around October Mars will get close enough to Earth to make large surface features visible. By year's end, a trained eye may be able to telescopically spot the planet's tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos. But that's a topic for another day.

Happy hunting.