Title: January Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: January 2011
Comments: Behold our fabulous Winter Sky! It's wonderful to experience Orion & his faithful hunting dogs, (Canis Major & Minor), as well as Taurus, Gemini, & the other great constellations of Winter, returning to our night skies. JUPITER, blazing at magnitude minus -2.3, is the brightest object in our evening sky, except for the Moon. Look for the stunning gas giant in the southwest just after sunset, among the relatively dim background stars of Pisces, the Fishes. (SE of the Pisces "circlet.") With a small telescope or good binoculars, you can view Jupiter's 4 bright Galilean moons in their ever-changing configurations. Galileo first saw them nearly 400 years ago with a 1.5-inch telescope of lower quality than any available today. Jupiter serves as a guide to URANUS. With binoculars, you can find Uranus lurking in Jupiter's vicinity, in the same binocular field of view, throughout the month. Wake up early to view three planets in the pre-dawn sky. Dazzling VENUS is that blazing light you see in the early morning sky, rising 3 hours before the Sun throughout January. At magnitude minus -4.6, there's no mistaking Venus for any other celestial object. Both Venus & Mercury reach western elongation this month (greatest distance west of the Sun), within 24 hours of each other. MERCURY arrives at this milestone on January 9th, when it will be 23 deg. west of the Sun. It then lies 10 degrees high in the southeast, 45 minutes before sunrise. That morning, the tiny innermost planet shines at magnitude minus -0.3, brighter than any star then visible, (tho' much fainter than Venus), & appears quite prominent to the lower left of Venus. SATURN has also reemerged as a morning planet. The ringed planet rises in the East at around 1 AM in early January, & by 11 PM at month's end. Saturn lies in Virgo, just above Spica, Virgo brightest star; shining at magnitude 0.7, only slightly brighter, & more of a golden color, in contrast to bluish Spica. Saturn's increasing altitude offers excellent opportunities for telescopic viewing of the spectacular ring system. The rings now tilt at 10 degrees to our line of sight from Earth, & present a fine view of their northern face. The Southern Cross rises in the southeast at 4:00 AM in early January, and by 2:00 AM at the end of the month. To view Crux, you'll need an unobstructed view to the southern horizon. Look for 2 bright stars low in the South, Alpha & Beta Centauri, which point to the Roman-style "cross" asterism to their right (west). For a January Hawaiian sky map, visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium (bishopmuseum.org).

Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii

 

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