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Wednesday, January 04, 2012


The Sky This Week - Thursday January 5 to Thursday January 12

The Full Moon is Monday January 9. Venus is easily visible in the western evening sky. Jupiter dominates the evening sky in the north-west once Venus has set. Mars is visible in the morning sky heading towards Saturn, which is near the star Spica. Mercury is very good in the morning near the horizon. Comet Lovejoy is now only visible in binoculars and telescopes. Earth is at Perihelion on the 5th.

Morning sky looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am local daylight saving time on Saturday January 7 showing Saturn and Mercury. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

The Full Moon is Monday January 9.

Mars is high in the northern morning sky, in the constellation of Leo. It is heading towards Spica and Saturn.

Saturn is above the north- eastern horizon, not far from the bright star Spica.

Mercury appears low in the morning twilight above the eastern horizon, below the constellation of the Scorpion. You will need a reasonably, clear eastern horizon to see it. This is the last week the Mercury can be easily seen this month.

Evening sky on Tuesday December 27 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 9:00 pm local daylight saving time in South Australia showing Venus in Capricornius. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen)

Bright white Venus is readily visible in the evening western twilight sky from around half an hour after sunset for somewhat over an hour and a half. Venus is Capricornius this week, and passes gamma Capricornii (magnitude 3.6) on the 7th, and Deneb Algedi (delta Capricornii, magnitude 2.9) on the 9th. You will have to wait until quite late in the twilight to see tehse stars appear.

Jupiter was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest as seen from Earth, on Saturday the 29th of October.

However, Jupiter is still a great binocular and telescope object and will be for many weeks to come. Jupiter is visible for most of the night in the north-western sky, setting an hour and a half after midnight.

Evening sky on Saturday January 7 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 10:00 pm local daylight saving time in South Australia showing Jupiter and the waxing Moon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. INSET: Jupiter and its Moons as seen telescopically at this time, (click to embiggen)

In the evening Jupiter is readily visible in the northern sky, from about twilight, and the north-western sky when it is fully dark.

Now is a good time for telescopic observation of this massive world, or follow its moons in binoculars. For good telescopic observation Jupiter is best from 9 pm - 12 am.

Although Jupiter is the most prominent now, there are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Southern horizon as seen from Adelaide at 3:30am ACDST on Saturday morning January 7. Similar views may be seen from other Australian locations at equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Comet Lovejoy gave those of us not benighted by cloud some very good views over Christmas. Despite being faint, there was an astounding tail that stretched high into the night sky (an image gallery is here and here).

The comet has faded considerably now. Some keen-eyed people can still see it with averted vision under very dark sky conditions, but for most of us it will only be visible in strong binoculars or telescope. After the 9th the Moon's light will interfere significantly with seeing the comet.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEDST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch (this will be up dated to January a little later).

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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