Jan 01

January 2008

What’s Up in the Sky January 2008
By Peter Burkey

The weather this time of year is usually bad but every now and then we get nice, crisp, clear nights and early mornings. That’s why it is helpful to know ahead of time what interesting objects or events may be visible at that time. This month offers a variety of opportunities.

The constellation Orion is easily recognized in the southeast around 10:00 p.m. He is surrounded by a number of bright stars including Sirius to the lower left and Aldebaran to the upper right. But this year he is joined by the planet Mars, shining as brightly as Sirius but high above Orion.

Another planet, Saturn, can be found near the eastern horizon just below the star Regulus.

The first week of January offers an opportunity to view a lovely predawn gathering. On Friday, January 4th, look near the eastern horizon for dazzling Venus. To its right will be a thin crescent moon and directly below the planet will be the star Antares.

On the 9th and 10th, 45 minutes after sunset, scan the southwest horizon with binoculars to see Mercury just below the thin crescent moon.

During the third week of January you may spot Jupiter in the morning to the lower left of Venus. The two move closer together as the month progresses until February 1 when the separation will be less than the diameter of a full moon! Don’t miss that one.

Just before sunset on the 19th, face east and use binoculars to look for Mars immediately to the right of the Moon. You may be able to see Mars with the unaided eye in the daytime, something to tell your friends.

Finally, on Friday, January 24, look for Saturn and the Moon rising side by side in the east around 10:00 p.m.

We may only get a few opportunities to observe, but at least this month offers a variety to see up in the sky.

This month in history:
Jan. 5: Pluto/Planet debate begins after discovery of UB313(Eris) – 2005
Jan. 8: Stephen Hawking born – 1942
Jan. 13: Galileo discovers Jupiter’s moon Ganymede – 1610
Jan. 14: Huygens spacecraft lands on Saturn’s moon Titan – 2005
Jan. 27: Apollo 1 astronauts Chaffee, White and Grissom die in fire in capsule-1967
Jan. 28: Seven astronauts killed when Space Shuttle Challenger explodes during launch – 1986
Jan. 31: Apollo 14 launched – 1971

Here are this month’s viewing highlights:
Planets this month: Venus is low in SE before sunrise. Jupiter becomes visible at mid-month, joining Venus in spectacular conjunction Feb. 1. Mars can be found directly above Orion and is visible all night. Saturn is farther East below Leo, rising around 9 pm at mid month.
Jan. 4: Moon-Venus-Antares form predawn triangle.
Jan. 8: New Moon.
Jan. 15: First quarter Moon.
Jan. 19: Use binocs to see Mars very close to Moon just before sunset.
Jan. 22: Full Moon.
Jan. 30: Last quarter Moon.
Jan. 31: Venus/Jupiter 1.2 degrees apart.