Tuesday, January 02, 2018
Mars and Jupiter in a Spectacular Conjunction in the Morning Sky (3-9 January, 2018)
The inset shows a simulation of the field of view of a 12 mm eyepiece on a 114mm Newtonian telescope. Mercury is now visible low to the horizon.
Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (that is 60 minutes before sunrise, click to embiggen).
Over the next few mornings, Mars and Jupiter will be putting on a spectacular display as they dance close together. For mots of this time the pair are visible not only close in the sky with the unaided eye, culminating on the 7th when the pair are only 0.25 degrees apart (less that a quarter of a finger-width). For most of this tome the pair are also visible in initially low, then at their closest in high power telescope eye pieces where the disk of Jupiter it's moons and the tiny disk of Mars may be seen together.
The viewing week starts tomorrow morning when the bright double star alpha2 Librae (Zubenelgenubi) are at their closest, and visible together in low power telescope eyepieces.
Although viewing can potentially start at 4:00 am, it is better to wait until 4:30 when the pair will be sufficiently high above the horizon murk and surrounding obstacles (this goes for all the observing times, although the charts are for nautical twilight (60 minutes before sunrise), the planets and stars are so bright that encroaching dawn will have little effect at this time. Atmospheric turbulence may make imaging difficult.
The pair or Jupiter and Mars are visible in binoculars all week, in a 24 mm or equivalent eyepiece (you will need to adjust for your own telescopes characteristics, this is a general guide) from the 5th to the 9th. a 12.25 mm eyepiece from the 6th to the 8th and a 5 mm eyepiece on the 7th. The scale lines on the above charts can give you a guide to your own telescopes field of views with different eye pieces.
As a grand finale, the waning moon is close to the pair on the 11th, and the crescent Moon forms a triangle with them on the 12th.