This Week’s Sky at a Glance, January 7 – 15


■ Jupiter continues to shine excessive and shiny within the southwest at nightfall this week. Way all the way down to its decrease proper Saturn is sinking towards the sundown, whereas Mercury approaches Saturn daily from beneath. See the scenes beneath.Today Mercury is at best elongation, 19° east of the Sun.

Mercury simply outshines Saturn this night; they’re magnitudes –0.5 and +0.7, respectively. But watch Mercury fade all week whereas Saturn stays the identical. They’re nonetheless approaching one another, however they will not have a conjunction. Mercury will get inside 3.4° of Saturn on January 12th, then backs away and flees.

Antares and Mars are regularly working their means greater within the brightening daybreak. Your finest look is perhaps 60 minutes earlier than dawn, earlier and in a darker sky than proven right here.


■ After dinnertime, the large Andromeda-Pegasus complicated runs from close to the zenith means down towards the western horizon.

Barely west of the zenith, spot Andromeda’s excessive foot: 2nd-magnitude Gamma Andromedae (Almach), barely orange. Andromeda is standing on her head. About midway down from the zenith to the west horizon is the Great Square of Pegasus, balancing on one nook. Andromeda’s head is its high nook. From the underside nook run the celebrities outlining Pegasus’s neck and head, ending at his nostril: 2nd-magnitude Enif, due west. It too is barely orange.


■ First-quarter Moon; precise at 1:11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Come night the Moon shines excessive in dim Pisces, some 10° west of 4th-magnitude al-Rescha, the Knot of the 2 fishes’ cords.

■ Very excessive within the southwest some three fists above Jupiter, the Great Square of Pegasus stays tipped on one nook. The Square’s horizontal diagonal factors left almost at the Moon (by about its personal size).


■ The large Northern Cross in Cygnus, topped by Deneb, is sort of upright within the west-northwest proper after full darkness falls. Another hour or so and it is standing on the horizon. How straight up it stands is dependent upon your latitude.


■ The Gemini twins lie on their sides these January evenings, left of Orion. Their head stars, Castor and Pollux, are farthest from Orion, one over the opposite. (Castor is the highest one, barely the fainter of the 2.) The Castor determine’s ft are simply left of Orion’s very dim, upraised Club.


■ Low within the sundown, Mercury has now pale to be lower than twice as shiny as Saturn; they’re magnitudes +0.1 and +0.7, respectively. See beneath. Mercury will probably be additional dimmed with respect to Saturn by the thicker atmospheric extinction at its decrease altitude.

Mercury has closed to inside 3.4° of Saturn low in twilight. This is the closest they’re going to get this apparition. Binoculars assist once they’re this low within the sundown afterglow.


■ Auriga the Charioteer rides excessive these evenings astride the Milky Way, awaiting your eyes and scope. Use Ken Hewitt-White’s “Suburban Stargazer” information with its chart of telescopic targets in central Auriga (understanding from the Leaping Minnow and False Minnow asterisms) within the January Sky & Telescope, web page 54.


■ Zero-magnitude Capella excessive overhead, and equally shiny Rigel in Orion’s foot, have virtually the identical proper ascension. This means they cross your sky’s meridian at virtually precisely the identical time: round 9 or 10 p.m. now, relying on how far east or west you reside in your time zone. So every time Capella passes its very highest, Rigel all the time marks true south over your panorama, and vice versa.Capella goes precisely by way of your zenith in case you’re at latitude 46° north: Portland, Oregon; Montreal; central France.

Two days later, Mercury and Saturn have develop into just about similar in brightness


■ Here it’s the coldest very backside of the yr, however the Summer Star, Vega, continues to be barely hanging in. Look for it twinkling over the northwest horizon throughout and shortly after dusk. The farther north you’re the greater it will likely be. If you are as far south as Florida, it is already gone.



This Week’s Planet Roundup

Mercury is low within the west-southwest in twilight, with Saturn close to it. Watch their altering configuration, as proven above. Mercury is fading; this week it diminishes from magnitude –0.5 to +0.6.

Venus is out of sight. It goes by way of photo voltaic conjunction, passing 5° north of the Sun, on January eighth. Next week it would start rising low within the daybreak.

Mars, within the ft of Ophiuchus, is low within the southeast in early daybreak. It’s far and faint at magnitude +1.5. To its proper or higher proper, Mars-colored Antares twinkles a little brighter at magnitude +1.0. Mars and Antares are almost 10° aside on the morning of January eighth, widening to 13° by the 15th.

Mars is on the far facet of its orbit from us, so in a telescope it is simply a tiny shimmering blob Four arcseconds broad.

Jupiter, magnitude –2.1 in Aquarius, shines brightly within the southwest at nightfall. Spot Fomalhaut, magnitude +1.2, two fists at arm’s size to Jupiter’s decrease left.

Saturn, magnitude +0.7 in Capricornus, is that very same distance to Jupiter’s decrease proper.

Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in Aries) could be very excessive within the south in early night. See Bob King’s story and finder chart.

Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) is way decrease within the southwest after darkish. It provides an invisible (to the naked-eye) planet to the Saturn-Jupiter line, 20° higher left of Jupiter.

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — together with the phrases up, down, proper, and left — are written for the world’s mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions and graphics that additionally rely upon longitude (primarily Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Standard Time, EST, is Universal Time (additionally referred to as UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time) minus 5 hours.

Want to develop into a higher astronomer? Learn your means across the constellations. They’re the important thing to finding all the things fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an out of doors nature pastime. For an easy-to-use constellation information overlaying the entire night sky, use the large month-to-month map within the heart of every situation of Sky & Telescope, revealed by the American Astronomical Society.

Once you get a telescope, to place it to good use you will want a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The fundamental commonplace is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in both the unique or Jumbo Edition), which reveals stars to magnitude 7.6.

The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and tons of of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae amongst them. Shown right here is the Jumbo Edition, which is in onerous covers and enlarged for simpler studying outdoor by pink flashlight. Sample charts. More in regards to the present editions.

Next up is the bigger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; almost 3 times as many. The subsequent up, as soon as you recognize your means round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And you’ll want to learn How to Use a Star Chart with a Telescope.

You’ll additionally need a good deep-sky guidebook. An spectacular one is the large Night Sky Observer’s Guide set (2+ volumes) by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope substitute charts? Not for rookies, I do not suppose, and never on mounts and tripods which can be lower than top-quality mechanically, which means heavy and costly. And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say of their Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, “A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand.”

Audio sky tour. Out beneath the night sky with yourearbuds in place, hearken to Kelly Beatty’s monthlypodcast tour of the heavens above. It’s free.

“The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It’s not that there’s something new in our way of thinking, it’s that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before.”            — Carl Sagan, 1996

“Facts are stubborn things.”            — John Adams, 1770


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