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Monthly Stargazing Targets  Getting Started in Astronomy

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 January 2021 (Notes by DMAS member Dave Lynch) 

  

The Planets 

This will not be a good month for planet viewing unless you have a very clear sight of the western horizon and a high place from which to view. This month is also a time when clear skies are rare and the temperatures can be biting. 

MERCURY puts in a very brief and challenging appearance this month. Never climbing very high, it does form a small triangle low in the southwest on January 9th and 10th with the departing Jupiter and Saturn just before sunset.

VENUS is playing up close and personal with the moon and because it is on the far side of the sun it is showing almost all of its disk. Look for this bright and shiny planet to clear the eastern horizon about a half to one hour before sunrise.

EARTH is cold hereabouts. Very cold this month and weather always plays an important role in its makeup. Viewed from space, the blue planet takes on a blanket of white. Especially in the northern hemispheres.

MARS is still hanging around this month. On January 22nd, Mars and Uranus will pass very close to each other mimicking the close encounter Saturn and Jupiter had last month. Mars travels along in Aries this month.

JUPITER is settling lower and lower and saying bye-bye to us this month. If you have a good view of the southwestern horizon just before sunset, Jupiter and its buddy Saturn are still relative close early in January. 

SATURN is also dropping lower and lower in the night sky and will join Jupiter and be gone to us for a while. Best last chance to see this planet is very early in the month. Look low in the southwest close to one hour before sunset.

URANUS will not be easy to see this month but its close proximity to Mars might give you good chance. Look about two degrees south of Mars and there be Uranus. The blue-green color should stand out from the dimming red of Mars. The close encounter with Mars will not be as spectacular as last month's conjunction.

NEPTUNE might be the one planet that won't be difficult to see this month. It remains well placed until close to 11:00 pm our time. Look for this grey colored planet in eastern Aquarius through most of the month.

PLUTO is still up there, traveling beside Mercury.

Moon 

  • Last Quarter -> Jan 06

  • New Moon -> Jan 13

  • First Quarter -> Jan 20

  • Full Moon -> Jan 28

Other topics this month: 

QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER:

The tail end of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks early in January. This shower actually started back in December but the best time, according to the "experts" will occur around here around 8:30 pm on January 3rd. The moon, in its gibbous stage, will probably cause some interference. If you are out on this night and actively looking, the streakers will be coming directly out of the eastern sky.In the past this shower has produced up to one hundred meteors an hour. Recently however, we have been lucky to see more than a dozen good meteors in one night.

THE SUN STARTS A NEW SOLAR CYCLE
Our sun has been somewhat off in terms of sun spots lately and this year marks the beginning of a new eleven year cycle. Sun spot activity is expected to increase more than it has in the past couple of years. Increasing sun spots could also mean a good chance for some auroral activity. We haven't seen the Northern Lights around here for some years. They are always such an impressive thing to see.

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Meteor Showers

web fireball 9x12Meteor showers come each year at the same time. Click here to see a list and descriptions.

 

 

 

 

 

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