INDEPENDENT NEWS

The January Night Sky

Published: Tue 19 Dec 2006 12:09 AM
Carter Observatory
The National Observatory of New Zealand
THE NIGHT SKY
Brian Carter*
The Carter Observatory wishes you all a wonderful holiday over the Christmas break and hope that 2007 is good to you all.
THE JANUARY NIGHT SKY
Towards the end of the month we will start to see the days getting shorter and, therefore, the nights for astronomy, longer.
Planets
January is a fairly good month for viewing the planets. Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars will be visible for all of January. Only Mercury will be invisible during the month.
Venus will be visible in the evening twilight. At the start of the month it sets at 22 01 and at 21 50 by month’s end. Venus starts the month in the constellation of Sagittarius, moving into Capricornus on January 5 and finally into Aquarius on January 27. Its magnitude is a constant –3.9.
Saturn will be visible for all but the early evening. At the start of January it rises at 23 16 and at 21 13 by month’s end. Saturn is in the constellation of Leo, in which it remains until September 2009. Its magnitude slightly brightens from 0.2 to 0.0 during the month.
Jupiter will be visible for the last third of the night in January. At the start of January it rises at 03 45 and at 02 08 by month’s end. Jupiter is in the constellation of Ophiuchus, in which it remains until 2007 December. Its magnitude slightly increases from –1.8 to –1.9 during the month.
Mars will be visible in the morning sky. At the start of the month it rises at 04 18 and at 03 53 by month’s end. Mars starts the month in the constellation of Ophiuchus, moving into Sagittarius on January 13. Its magnitude slightly increases from 1.5 to 1.4 during the month.
Mercury is visible too close to the Sun to be seen in January. It will reappear in the morning sky in March. Mercury starts the month in the constellation of Sagittarius, moving into Capricornus on January 15.
All times are for Wellington unless otherwise stated. Other centres may vary by a few minutes.
Phases of the Moon
Full Moon – January 4 at 02 57.
Last Quarter – January 12 at 01 45.
New Moon – January 19 at 17 01.
First Quarter – January 26 at 12 01.
Earth at Perihelion
The Earth is at perihelion (closest to the Sun) at 09:00 on January 4. The distance is 0.9832602 AU, which is 147,093,600 km.
Diary of Astronomical Phenomena
Jan 4 Full Moon at 02 57.
4 Earth at perihelion (closest to the Sun) at 09:00. (Distance = 0.9832602 AU = 147,093,600 km).
7 Saturn close to the Moon in the morning twilight.
7 Mercury in superior conjunction (on the far side of the Sun) at 19 00.
11 Moon at apogee (furthest from the Earth) at 05:00 (Distance = 0.0027028 AU = 404,330 km).
16 Antares close to the Moon as they both rise at about 02 30.
19 New Moon at 17 01.
23 Moon at perigee (closest to the Earth) at 02:00. (Distance = 0.0024527 AU = 366,920 km).
JANUARY SKY CHART
This chart shows the sky as it appears at about 22:00 for ~January 15.


Click to enlarge
How To Use the Sky Charts
To use the sky chart hold it up to the sky so that the direction in which you are looking is at the lower edge of the map. For example, if you are looking at the western horizon then the map should be held so that the “WEST” label is at the lower edge. The altitude and direction of the stars and planets will then be correctly shown. The centre of the chart will be directly overhead.
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* Brian Carter is the Senior Astronomer at Carter Observatory (The National Observatory of New Zealand), Observatory Web Site: www.CarterObservatory.org

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