Tuesday, January 06, 2015
The Sky This Week - Thursday January 8 to Thursday January 15
The Last Quarter Moon is Tuesday January 13. The Moon is at apogee, furthest from the Earth, on the 10th.
Mercury is low in the twilight, 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.
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 and Venus are at their closest on Sunday the 11th when they are just a finger-width apart. However the pair are nicely close for the rest of the week.
Mars is still seen low in the western evening sky, setting around 10:30 pm daylight saving time (shortly after twilight ends). 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 just after twilight finishes.
Mars is in the constellation of Capricornius.
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). On the 9th the waning Moon forms a triangle with Regulus and Jupiter.
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 Io and Europa on the 14th, starting just before 1 am..
Jupiter enters the evening sky just after 10 pm daylight saving time, but is still best observed in the morning.
C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is brightening in the sky and will be brightest on the 11th. The comet is passing Orion heading towards Taurus.
While the comet is 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 dark sky sites have been able to see it with the unaided eye, it may even bee visible in suburban locations on Sunday. 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 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.
Labels: weekly sky