Tuesday, January 13, 2015
The Sky This Week - Thursday January 15 to Thursday January 22
The New Moon is Tuesday January 20. The Moon is at perigee, closest to the Earth, on the 22nd.
Mercury is low in the twilight, and starts the week not far from Venus. Venus provides a helpful signpost to finding Mercury. It is visible 40 minutes after sunset, although it might not be obvious at first. Look a bit below and to the left of Venus. As the week goes on Mercury falls away from Venus into the twilight.
Venus is now easy to see low on the western horizon in the twilight. At civil twilight, half an hour after sunset, it is well over a hand-span above the horizon. While Venus is bright you will still need a reasonably flat, clear horizon to see it, although as the week goes by it is easier and easier to pick out.
Mercury and Venus were at their closest on Sunday the 11th when they were just a finger-width apart. However the pair are nicely close at the start of the week, then slowly draw away.
Mars is still seen low in the western evening sky, setting around 10:30 pm daylight saving time (shortly after twilight ends). Mars is becoming harder and harder to see as it lowers deeper into the twilight.
Mars is in the constellation of Capricornius.
Saturn climbs higher in the morning sky. It is now easily visible in the early twilight near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion. The crescent Moon is close to Saturn and the bright red star Antares on Saturday January 17.
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 in both binoculars and small telescopes.
Jupiter enters the evening sky just before 10 pm daylight saving time, and is now in a decent position for telescope viewing just before midnight, although still best in the early morning.
C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is now dimming in the sky after being brightest on the 11th. The comet is passing Taurus heading towards Aries.
While the comet was brightest on January 11, it is reasonably bright now (estimates between magnitude 4.0 and 4.5) and the rest of the week. It is easily visible in binoculars and people in subsurban sites have been able to see it with the unaided eye. Binoculars or small telescopes show it as a definite fuzzy disk about a quarter of the size of the Moon. In modest sized telescopes the faint thin tail can be seen. Instructions on viewing the comet and printable finding charts can be found here.
There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with the comet 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.
Labels: weekly sky