January Skies

Happy New Year from Dogstar-Observatory. Janie and I had a wonderful two weeks on the mountain and thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone at all the parties and events.

January is a great month for star gazing with lots of clear skies and interesting things to see. First order of business for this month is happening tonight – the annual Quadrantids meteor shower. Named for the defunct ancient constellation Quadrans, their radiant (the part of the sky where they appear to originate) is now part of the constellation Bootes. Not noted for producing a lot of meteors its still worth watching tonight as there will be no moon. Peak should occur around 8:00 PM and the meteors will appear as if coming from Bootes which will be low in the northeast. Keep checking even after 8:00 as the peak will last several hours.

Another interesting astronomical event to check out between January the 2nd and 5th is the close conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus. Through binoculars or a small telescope Uranus will appear as a small pale blue dot just above Jupiter’s disk. The two planets will slowly pull apart during the month as Jupiter moves rapidly past Uranus on its 12 year orbit around the sun. By comparison Uranus moves at a snails pace in its 84 year orbit.

Venus is very bright in the pre-dawn skies this month. It will appear 47 degrees before the Sun on the 8th when it reaches the point in its orbit called greatest elongation. Mercury will be more difficult to see but look for a much dimmer dot below and to the left of Venus. It reaches greatest elongation of 23 degrees on the 9th.

Don’t forget to take a look at Orion’s belt where the famous M42 nebula lives. It will be visible as a faint fuzzy patch to the naked eye on a dark night and be very visible through binoculars or a small telescope. While you are gazing at Orion, look almost straight up and you will see the Pleiades, a open cluster of very bright stars surrounded by a faint nebulae that appears a pale blue in photographs.

I will try to add more things to look at as the month progresses so do check back from time to time. I did manage to get some camera time at Dogstar over the holidays and will be posting some new images soon. So until next month, turn out the lights go outside and enjoy the night sky at Balsam.

Jim Stratigos

Resident Astronomer

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