Starting off in the early evening, face the southwest starting after local sunset and about halfway up the sky is Jupiter. Despite its great distance of 600 million km, this gas giant shines brighter than any other star-like object in the winter skies, except for Venus which shines like a white beacon below right of Jupiter. A steadily held pair of binoculars will easily reveal the four main moons of Jupiter - first discovered by Galileo in 1609. However a telescope will offer enough magnification to resolve details in the atmosphere of the gas giant - such as brown coloured cloud bands straddling Jupiters equatorial region, and even the Great Red Spot - a hurricane three times the size of Earth.
Meanwhile, for late night owls, the ringed planet Saturn dominates the southern sky in the early morning hours before sunrise. To the planets lower right is Spica, the brightest star of the constellation Virgo sitting 260 light years away. Even the smallest telescope will really show off Saturns magnificent rings which are now tilted about 15 degrees towards Earth.