The First Quarter Moon is Sunday January 1 (New Years day). Venus is easily visible in the western evening sky. Jupiter dominates the evening sky to the north once Venus has set. Jupiter is near the waxing Moon on the 2nd and 3rd. Mars is visible in the morning sky heading towards Saturn, which is near the star Spica. Mercury at its best in the morning near the horizon. Comet Lovejoy is faintly seen in the morning sky below the Southern Cross. Earth is at Perihelion on the 5th.
Sorry no diagrams this week, due to lack of internet access while travelling and using a borrowed computer with none of my programs, Southern Skywatch will be delayed as well.
The Christmas Comet, comet C/2011 W3 Lovejoy, is fading. It is currently as bright as the Magellanic clouds, and its magnificent tail is shortening. As of writing, although dim it is still easily seen with the unaided eye as a streak of faint light below the pointers (alpha and beta Centauri) below the Southern Cross (although light polluted suburban sites may have a lot more difficulty picking it up, and need binoculars already). It will fade during the week, and may become a binocular object by the end of the week. UPDATE 31 Dec the comet has faded more quickly than I expected. It is now very difficult to see with the unaided eye except at the very darkest sites.
When looking for the comet, you will need to get up at least an hour and a half before local sunrise to see it at its best. You will need to wait a few minutes in the dark for you eyes to accommodate to the darkness to pick it out. Even things like mobile phone screens and the preview panes on digital cameras can mess up your night vision. The comet currently begins juts above the southern horizon and extends up to just below the pointers. It will rise higher in the sky as it fades, making it easier to see. Even as the comet fades it will still be a great sight.
As long as you are up looking at the comet, wait a a while for Mercury to rise.This and next week are the best times to see this fleet world in the morning.
Labels: weekly sky