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Wednesday, January 18, 2017


The Sky This Week - Thursday January 19 to Thursday January 26

The Last Quarter Moon is Friday January 20.  Venus is prominent in the evening sky in the star poor regions of Aquarius. Mars is just above Venus. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the morning skies with Saturn and Mercury close to the horizon below. The waning Moon is close to Jupiter on the 19th, Saturn on the 25th and Mercuty on the 26th. Asteroid Vesta visible in binoculars.

The Last Quarter Moon is Friday January 20.  The Moon is at apogee, when it is furthest from the Earth, on the 22nd.

Evening sky on Saturday January 21 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:33 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line. The inset is a simulation of the telescopic view of Venus.

 Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (that is 60 minutes after local sunset, click to embiggen).

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. Venus is a distinct "half Moon" shape in telescopes.

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Aquarius, close to the Aquarius/Pisces border. Mars remains in a star poor area.

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.

The North-east horizon as seen in Australia at 22:10 pm ACDST (an hour and a half after sunset) showing the location of Vesta on Saturday January 21 (similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time, and hour and a half after sunset, click to embiggen). The inset shows the binocular view of Vesta near Castor and Pollux.

The asteroid Vesta is just past opposition, and this is a excellent time to see one of the biggest asteroids in the solar system. At magnitude 6.4 it is easily viewable in binoculars, now that the Moon is rising later. It is above the north-eastern horizon, and the bright stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, point to it, with Vesta being almost the distance between Castor and Pollux from Pollux. You may need to watch night to night as the asteroid moves to be sure of its identity.

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 19th the waning Moon is close to Jupiter, forming a triangle with it and Spica. On the morning of the 21st  there is a dual transit of the shadows of Io and Io itself staring at 1:10 am AEDST.

Morning  sky on Thursday January 21 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:30 ACDST (50 minutes before sunrise). Saturn is reasonably high above the horizon with Mercury just below it  with the thin crescent Moon neaby. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (50 minutes before sunrise). (click to embiggen).

 Saturn rises higher in darker morning skiesthis week. Saturn is now high enough above eastern horizon to see 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 the horizon, the next bright object is Saturn, followed by Mercury. On the 25th the crescent Moon is close to Saturn, on the 26th it is close to Mercury.

Mercury is at its highest above the horizon  this week. It is now easy to see below Saturn from nautical twilight twilight. At the beginning of the week Mercury is at its closest to Saturn and is at its highest above the horizon, making it much easier to see, it will slowly return towards the horizon after this.

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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