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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Look At The Sky: January

Happy New Year!  

Putting this sky calendar up early because there is a meteor shower on Saturday evening/night.

So here's what the Arkansas Sky Observer site has to say for this month:

Mercury - The elusive but bright planet MERCURY will be at its greatest elongation eastward around Jan. 14 and thus easiest to spot above the western horizon about 45 minutes after sunset; at mid-month look for Mercury just below (or closer to the horizon) much brighter VENUS; the two will be in very close conjunction at sunset on Jan. 13 - in CAPRICORNUS.

Venus - Our sister planet, the brilliant Venus, is setting in the western sky about 6:30 p.m. local time and is on the far side of the sun as seen from earth, and thus nearly fully illuminated; it is the brightest object in the western sky a dusk throughout January; note however, that its position changes very little relative to sunset as the planet slowly creeps Eastward.  At midmonth, Venus is quite close to far-fainter MERCURY - in CAPRICORNUS

Mars -  The red planet, far from earth for all of 2015, is now setting in the western sky about an hour after the end of twilight.

Jupiter -  The mighty yellow Jupiter dominates the entire evening spam of time, high overhead at 2 a.m. local time for northern observers.  Look for Jupiter to be rising in the east about 9:30 p.m. local time; its huge size (45" arc) this month and high altitude in the sky, makes it a prime telescopic target for the winter skies; this will be our planet of the month and an excellent view affords those who brave the January cold to venture outdoors to explore this huge, gaseous world  - in CANCER-LEO

Saturn - Our ringed planet rises about 3:00 local time in the eastern skies for northern observers and now presents its magnificent ring system angled nearly maximum toward Earth; this will be a very favorable year for observers to study the ringed planet telescopically. Note that on Jan. 15, the thin waning crescent moon and Saturn will be incredibly close, making a great wide field photo-op!   - in LIBRA

Comet c2014 Q2 Lovejoy - Here it is! The best comet of the winter; now high overhead for northern observers at about 8:30 local time in the constellation of Taurus, this comet has a predicted brightness of 8.2, but recent observations indicate that it might attain naked eye visibility (magnitude 6.0 or brighter); currently the comet has an east-facing tail and is a splendid sight, both visually and photographically and is very conveniently located in high northern skies just after dark in cold January evenings .

January 3-4 - QUADRANTID METEORS - The moon will be at or near FULL phase and dominate the skies for most of this evening for this year's showing of this meteor shower.  Always a chance for quite a show...the best that January has to offer each year, but in 2015 the moon will hamper observation of these meteors.  With an incredible short and fast maximum peak of 40 or more meteors possible, it will come and go in a flash (about the time that the sky reaches peak darkness after sunset on the 3rd.   In some years under dark skies, observers have seen up to 600 members of this stream per hour, all traveling at a medium speed of about 41 kps.  Most are very faint, remember, and distinctly blue in color, so fast film is desired if photographing these meteors.  The meteor shower emanates from near and north of the bright star Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes, rising in the northeast about midnight.

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