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Wednesday, January 11, 2017


The Sky This Week - Thursday January 12 to Thursday January 19

The Full Moon is Thursday January 12.  Venus is prominent in the evening sky in the star poor regions of Aquarius, and is close to Neptune on the 12th and 13th. Mars is just above Venus. There is a series of bright ISSS passes with some that come close to Venus and Mars. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the morning skies with Saturn is low to the horizon below.

The Full Moon is Thursday January 12.

Evening sky on Saturday January 14 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:54 ACDST (80 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line with Neptune (visible in binoculars and telescopes). Neptune is closest to Venus on the 12th and 13th. The inset is a simulation of the telescopic view of Venus. The line shows the path of the ISS above Venus and Mars at this time.

Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (that is 80 minutes after local sunset), except for the ISS which is highly location dependent, for ISS pass predictions see this post. (click to embiggen).

The International Space Station make a series of bright passes  seen from most of Australia in the evening. Some come very close to Venus and Mars, for more details, charts, timings and links to specific prediction sites see this post.

Venus  is high in the dusk sky and intensely bright. It can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour after sunset to two hours after sunset. It stays dazzlingly brilliant above the horizon in truly dark skies well into the evening. Venus has been mistaken for flares or landing aeroplanes it is so bright now.

Venus is in a very star poor field in Aquarius. On January 12 and 13  it is close to Neptune. The Full Moon, and the big difference in brightness between Venus and dim Neptune means that its close approach is really only visible in wide field telescope eye pieces. Venus is a distinct "half Moon" shape in telescopes.

Black and white binocular chart suitable for printing, showing a higher power view of the area around Venus and Neptune on 12 January. Use in conjunction with the sky chart above. The circle is the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. Click to embiggen and print. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia.

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Aquarius, close to the Aquarius/Pisces border. Mars remains in a star poor area.On the 12th it is a finger width from the dim star Phi (ϕ) Aquarii.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming. While still brighter than any of the nearby stars, it is much faded and not immediately obvious, It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible most of the evening setting before midnight. In small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.

Morning  sky on  Thursday January 19 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:34 ACDST (90 minutes before sunrise).  Jupiter is now high above the horizon and is in dark skies well before dawn. It is close to the bright star Spica and the waning Moon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter rises even  higher into the morning skies this week. It is now well above the eastern horizon and is easy to see as the brightest object above the eastern horizon from around an hour and a half before sunrise. It is close to the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Jupiter is now high enough to be a good telescopic target, and the dance of its Moons is visible even in binoculars.

On the morning of the 12th there is a dual transit of the shadows of Io and Europa staring at 4:48 am AEDST. On the 19th the waning Moon is close to Jupiter.

Morning  sky on  Saturday January 14 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:30 ACDST (just 40 minutes before sunrise). Saturn is reasonably high above the horizon with Mercury just below it. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (40 minutes before sunrise). (click to embiggen).

 Saturn rises higher in the morning twilight this week. Saturn is now high enough above eastern horizon to see reasonably easily. It continues to climb into darker skies as the week progresses.

The constellation of Scorpio is a good guide to locating Saturn and Mercury. The distinctive curl of Scorpio is easy to see above the eastern horizon, locate the bright red star, Antares, and the look below that towards thr horizon, the next bright object is Saturn, followed by Mercury.

Mercury climbs out of the twilight this week. It is now easy to see below Saturn before the start of civil twilight. By the end of the week rapidly brightening Mercury is at its closest to Saturn and is at its higest above the horizon, making it much easier to see.

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.

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

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/


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