VERY CAREFUL NOT TO OBSERVE SUN DIRECTLY!
INSTANT BLINDNESS CAN OCCUR!!!
Instruments can explode!!! Cease viewing before Sun actually rises if you're using binoculars or telescope!!!
Shadow silhouette of Curiosity Rover vehicle just after landing on target in Gale Crater on Mars late Sunday evening PDEarthT, Sunday, August 5th, 2012. Major kudos to the NASA/JPL Curiosity Flight Team! Now the real work begins to explore the planet for habitability and possible current life!
PLANET and SKY INFORMATION: (updated February 7th, 2014)
Planet Parade: Mercury is in post sunset western sky but very low, poor viewing, don't risk injury from sunlight!
Venus rises in east around 530 AM ahead of sunrise.
Mars rises in east around midnight.
Jupiter rules the evening sky, very bright whitish dot high in SE sky as darkness falls, just to upper left of Orion, makes a triangle with brilliant star, Sirius, far below, and either of the two bright stars in Orion, orangy Betelgeuse (upper left) or blue-white Rigel (lower right in Orion).
Saturn rises in east around 200 AM.
So, before dawn, you can see an arc of three planets across the Ecliptic (apparent path of the Sun) stretched across the sky, Mars, Saturn, and Venus (west to east).
Uranus and Neptune are opposite the Sun from where we are, so won't be readily visible until late Summer/Fall.
The constellations of Winter dominate the early evening sky: Auriga, Taurus, Gemini, Orion, and Canis Major with brilliant star Sirius, and Canis Minor. You can trace the Winter Circle of bright stars: Capella (Auriga), Aldebaran (Taurus), Sirius (Canis Major), Rigel and Betelgeuse (Orion), Procyon (Canis Minor), and Pollux and Castor (Gemini), as we view outward into the Perseus spiral arm of our Galaxy as we sit in the Orion Spur of that arm. The relative proximity of those stars (even though light years away), along with most of them being Giant class stars, makes them appear bright.
The Big Dipper starts the evening in the NE sky with its handle pointing downward, then wheels across the northern sky to set in the NW before sunrise with its handle now pointing somewhat upward, the arc of the 3 handle stars takes you to the bright orangy star, Arcturus, a harbinger of Spring.
By later in the evening the stars of Spring are visible in the eastern sky: Leo the Lion anchored by the star, Regulus at the base of the question mark head and front torso, and Denebola at the tail. Antares, the red supergiant in Scorpius, rises later in the morning, and the ice cream cone shaped constellation, Bootes, anchored by brilliant orange Arcturus, rises in the east by the wee hours.
Predawn brings the Summer Triangle into view (Vega, Deneb, Altair).
There are several eclipses that will be visible in the Pacific NW this year, starting with a total lunar eclipse in April, more info shortly.