Star Watch

STAR WATCH for January, 2019

Public Nights, Spring 2019The WCSU Planetarium and Observatory facility is currently CLOSED for the winter season. Public Nights will be held during the Spring season; the schedule will be posted here toward the end of January.

NIGHTLY SKY CALENDAR 

*, !, !! – interesting to very interesting celestial event
E –  calendar or geometry- related event (such as an equinox)

 

Day Date Note Description
Sat Jan. 5 New Moon
Sun 6 * VENUS reaches greatest western elongation, 46.95 degrees west of the Sun; look southeast in the hours before dawn. In telescopes, Venus will present a half-illuminated disk, like a miniature Last Quarter Moon.
Sat 12 * The waxing crescent Moon passes near MARS. Look low in the SW after sunset.
Mon 14 First Quarter Moon
Mon 21 The Full Moon occurs around 12 a.m. on the 21st. It also reaches perigee around 3 p.m., at 357,342 km or 222,042 miles from Earth’s center. Expect strong ocean tides.
Sun/Mon 20/21 !! The FULL Wolf MOON will be totally eclipsed, with the event visible from New England from 9:35 p.m. on Jan. 20 through 2:50 a.m. on Jan. 21. The Moon will be partially eclipsed (look like it has a bite taken out of it) starting at 10:33 p.m. Totality begins at 11:41 p.m. on the 20th and ends at 12:43 a.m. on the 21st. Mid-eclipse is at 12:12 a.m. on the 21st, at which time the Moon will be high (over 68 degrees altitude) in the southern sky.

After totality ends, the Moon remains in partial eclipse until 1:50 a.m. Because the Full Moon will be passing north of  the center of Earth’s dark inner (umbra) shadow, this should be a relatively bright eclipse, with the Moon turning coppery orange.

Tue 22 ! VENUS and JUPITER have a close conjunction in the predawn sky. Look southeast around an hour before sunrise to see the brilliant pair separated by less than 3 degrees. The bright, reddish star Antares should be to the right of Jupiter. (Venus and Jupiter are near each other from Jan. 15 through 27. See also the Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 entries.)
Sun /Sat Jan. 27 /Feb. 2 !! The southeastern predawn sky has amazing alignments of stars and planets for this time period! From the 27th through 29th, the bright Venus-Jupiter pairing has Antares to its right and Saturn well left and below it. The waning crescent Moon enters the picture on the 30th, lying above Jupiter and Antares. By the 31st, the Moon’s thinning crescent is just to the right of Venus (photo op!!). An hour before sunrise on Feb. 1 Antares, Jupiter, Venus, the razor-thin Moon and Saturn make a broad curve stretching down from SSE to ESE near the horizon. The view on the 2nd is largely the same, but the Moon will now be to the left of Saturn. Count yourself lucky if you have a good view of the southeastern horizon!

 

PLANETARY INFORMATION                                                                                                     

MERCURY – starts the first week of January as a “morning planet” visible low in the ESE before sunrise.   As Mercury vanishes into the Sun’s glare, the planet Saturn moves into visibility in that location for the last two weeks of the month.                                                                                                                                                       

VENUS – is a brilliant object in the SE predawn sky during January; it reaches greatest western elongation, nearly 47 degrees from the Sun, on Jan. 6. Venus’s eastward and Jupiter’s westward drifting in the night sky brings them close together between Jan. 15 and 27; they are very close (less than 3 degrees separation) between the 22nd and 24th.

MARS – not overly conspicuous at magnitude 0, it spends the month in Pisces. The waxing crescent Moon (2 days before First Quarter) passes near Mars on Jan. 12 .

JUPITER – starts the year just east of Scorpius and its red star Antares, visible in the SE predawn sky along with brilliant Venus which lies above and right of Jupiter. The two planets pass each other on Jan. 22; thereafter, Jupiter is to the right of Venus.

SATURN – is low in the ESE before dawn during the last week of January.

Star Watch is provided by the Earth and Planetary Sciences program at Western Connecticut State University. Thanks for connecting!