January 2016

To see a video of this information, go to my YouTube Channel

January turns out to be a little more interesting than normal, given the four planets you can see in the morning, Comet Catalina still visible (with binoculars), the Quadrantid Meteor shower, and an occultation of bright Aldebaran.  It will be cold (maybe), but we have plenty of night to work with.

 

PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset – None

Planets you can see throughout the night – Jupiter (EàSàSW)

Planets you can see in the Morning – Venus (SE), Saturn (S), Mars (S), Jupiter (S)

 

Mercury – Not really visible this month.   

Venus Saturn will be visible around 4am in the SE, well below and to the left of Mars and near Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius.

Mars Look East after 2am and Mars will be the bright-ish reddish light below and the left of bright Spica. By sunrise, it will be directly in the South and 35˚ above the horizon

Jupiter – Look East after 10pm and Jupiter will be the very bright light below Leo the Lion. It will move toward the South and will be in the SW by sunrise.

Saturn – Saturn will be visible around 4am in the SE, well below and to the left of Mars and near Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius.


EVENTS...

Comet Catalina – It’s not likely going to be a Halley’s Comet, but it could reach naked eye visibility, but as comet hunter David Levy says, comets are like cats: They both have tails, and they do precisely what they want.  So, really we don’t know how bright it will get.  It’s a morning comet, so you’ll have to get up early and look SE. Given the complexity of observing it, check out these two websites, but know that the Moon will get in the way and you’ll likely need binoculars, with best viewing around mid-month when it gets closest to Earth.

Last Quarter Moon – 2nd (Visible from midnight into the morning)

2nd – 3rd – Close Encounter – Moon, Jupiter, Mars – Look SE after 2:30am and you’ll find a last quarter Moon directly in between Jupiter and Mars on the morning of the 2nd and on the 3rd, the Moon will be only 5˚ above Mars, and close to the brightest star in Virgo, Spica.

3rd – 4th – Quadrantid Meteor Shower – You have to get up super early to see these, but worth a shot, even with its narrow viewing window and cold temps.  See more info here.

6th – 7thClose Encounter – Moon, Venus, Saturn – Look toward the SE on the morning of the 6th after 5:30am, and you’ll find Saturn, Venus, and the Moon in a line, with Saturn lowest, Venus brightest and 3˚ up and to the right and the Moon 6˚ up and to the right of that.  The next morning, a VERY thin crescent Moon will be to the left of Saturn and Venus.

New Moon – 9th (darkest skies) 

9th Conjunction – Venus & Saturn – Look toward the SE on the morning of the 9th after 5:30am, and you’ll find bright Venus with Saturn less than ½˚ away.  A rare occurrence.

First Quarter Moon – 16th (Visible until midnight)

19th – Moon Occults Aldebaran – On this evening, watch as the dark portion of the Moon crosses over the bright star Aldebaran.  For those around me in Lancaster County, we’re looking at Aldebaran disappearing behind the Moon around 9:30pm EST and reappearing about and hour and twenty minutes later, with differences based on where you are on Earth.  See predictions for where you live here: lunar-occultations.com/iota/bstar/bstar You don’t see these often, and this is a super easy one to watch. 

Full Moon – 23rd (Visible all night)          

27th – 28thClose Encounter – Moon & Jupiter – On the night of the 27th, Look East after 9:40pm and you’ll see a waning gibbous Moon and Jupiter very close together, only about 2˚ apart.  They’ll rise up together throughout the night and move further apart.

Last Quarter Moon – 31st (Visible from midnight into the morning)

CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

After Sunset (sunset is around 5:00pm) – Perseus, Taurus, Auriga – Extra Challenge! Right in the middle of Perseus is an open cluster called Mel 20.  If you take binoculars and look around Perseus, you’ll see plenty of stars, but right in the middle where Mel 20 is, there are a lot more than you can see anywhere else in Perseus, hence they call it a cluster of stars.

Between Sunset and Midnight – Auriga, Taurus, Gemini

Midnight – Gemini

Early Morning – Bootes

GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS: 

Winter constellations:  Orion is easy to spot as he is rising in the East around 7:30pm.  You can use Orion to find many other winter constellations.

Using Orion:  Find Orion by looking for the three stars in a row that make up Orion’s belt in the East after sunset.  If you draw a line from the left (bottom) star to the right (top) star and keep going right about 20 degrees (about 2 fists at arm’s length) until you reach another very bright star, you will have reached the star Aldebaron in Taurus (the V).  Follow that line a little more (about another fist) and you’ll find the Pleiades.

Draw a line from the right (top) star in Orion’s belt to the left (bottom) star, and keep going left about 20 degrees (2 fists again), you’ll come to the brightest star in the sky – Sirius – part of Canis Major.

Above these three constellations are Gemini and Auriga.  The brightest stars in each of these constellations form a circle in the sky.  Going clockwise - Aldebaron (Taurus) – Rigel (Orion – bottom right foot) – Sirius (Canis Major) – Procyon (Canis Minor) – Castor & Pollux (Gemini) – Capella (Auriga).  It makes for great stargazing in the winter sky.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

 

 

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