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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday January 1 to Thursday January 8

The Full Moon is Monday January 5. Venus is low in the evening sky with Mercury not far below it. Mars is easily visible in the early evening. Jupiter is prominent in the morning sky and is visited by the Moon on the 8th and 9th. Saturn rises in the morning sky. Comet C/2102 Q2 Lovejoy is easily visible in binoculars in the early evening and is visible to the unaided eye in dark sky sites.

The Full Moon is Monday January 5.  Earth is at perihelion, closest to the Sun, on the 4th.

Evening sky on Saturday January 3 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 (9:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia.  Mars is high in the twilight, with Venus and Mercury close together below. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).
  
Mercury  is low in the twilight, not far from Venus.

Venus is now easy to see low on the western horizon in the twilight. At civil twilight, half an hour after sunset, it is over a hand-span above the horizon. While Venus is bright you will still need a reasonably flat, clear horizon to see it.


Mercury is just below Venus, the two are at their closest next week on the 11th.

 Mars  is still easily seen low in the western evening sky, setting around 11:00 pm daylight saving time. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th of April, and is still  readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the western horizon in the early evening.

Mars is in the constellation of  Capricornius.


Morning sky on Thursday January 8 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am ACDST showing Jupiter.  The waning Moon is close to Jupiter at this time. The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at 5:00 am. Jupiter is the brightest object above the northern horizon. (click to embiggen).

Saturn climbs higher in the morning sky.

 Jupiter  is prominent in the morning sky, and is easy to see above the horizon before twilight. Jupiter is the brightest object above the northern horizon. It is now not far from the bright star Regulus in the sickle of Leo (this forms the head of the constellation of the  Lion).

Jupiter is now high enough for good telescopic observation before astronomical twilight. Jupiter's Moons will be putting on a good display, and there is transit of Callisto on the 8th.

Jupiter enters the evening sky just before 11 pm daylight saving time, but is still best observed in the morning.


Evening sky on Saturday January 5 looking east  as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia. Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is above Rigel.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is brightening in the sky. The comet is passing above Orion and Rigel heading towards Taurus.

It is brightest on January 11, but is easily visible in binoculars now and people in dark sky sites have been able to see it with the unaided eye. Binoculars or small telescopes show it as a definite fuzzy patch about a quarter of the size of the Moon. Instructions on viewing the comet and printable finding charts can be found here.

By the end of the week the brightening Moon will make it difficult to see, unaided eye views may be impossible. 

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with the comet brightening rapidly in the early evening sky.  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.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.

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