December 30, 2012

What's Up in January: In the face of a winter sky, a lengthening day

By BERNIE REIM

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

This chart represents the sky as it appears over Maine during January.  The stars are shown as they appear at 9:30 p.m. early in the month, at 8:30 p.m. at mid-month and at 7:30 p.m. at month’s end. Jupiter is shown in its mid-month position. To use the map, hold it vertically and turn it so that the direction you are facing is at the bottom.

Sky Chart Prepared by George Ayers

We are now losing both of our next-door neighbors, Venus and Mars, the planets of love and war, into the twilight.

Jupiter is still high and bright and closer to us than usual. Watch the waxing gibbous moon pass just below Jupiter in Taurus on the evening of the 21st.

Saturn's rings are now open at a 19 degree angle, which is the best view we had since 2006.

JANUARY HIGHLIGHTS

Jan. 1. On this day in 1801, Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the first and largest asteroid, Ceres, which was considered a planet for about 50 years.

Jan. 2. Earth passes through perihelion, which marks its closest annual approach to the sun. .

Jan. 3. The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks this morning. The moon will interfere since it will be in the waning gibbous phase and rise at 11 p.m.

Jan. 5. Last quarter moon is at 10:58 p.m.

Jan. 6. The moon is near Saturn in the southern sky about one hour before sunrise.

Jan. 7. On this day in 1610, Galileo discovered three of the large moons of Jupiter: Callisto, Europa and Io. The largest of all the moons in our solar system, Ganymede at 3,200 miles in diameter, was probably in front of or behind Jupiter at the time, so he would not discover it until six days later.

Jan. 8. Stephen Hawking was born on this day in 1942.

Jan. 10. On this day in 1946, the U.S. Army bounced the first radar signal off the moon.

Jan. 11. New moon is at 2:45 p.m.

Jan. 12. On this day in 2005, the Deep Impact spacecraft was launched.

Jan. 14. On this day in 2005, the Huygens probe landed on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

Jan. 18. First quarter moon is at 6:46 p.m.

Jan. 21. Jupiter is less than 1 degree above the moon around 11 p.m tonight.

Jan. 22. On this day in 2003, Pioneer 10 sent its last signal to Earth. The Voyager missions are now about 10 billion miles out in space, which is about where the solar wind ends and the interstellar medium begins.

Jan. 26. Full moon is at 11:40 p.m.

Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England.

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