Title: January Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: January 2012
Comments: Behold our fabulous Winter Sky! Orion & his faithful hunting dogs, (Canis Major & Minor), as well as Taurus, Gemini, Pegasus, & the other great constellations & bright stars of Winter, display boldly in our evening skies. Stunning VENUS glows brilliantly high in the southwestern sky just after sunset. At magnitude minus -4.0, our "sister planet" shines far brighter than any other point of light in the sky. Venus appears in the constellation Capricornus the Sea Goat, until January 11th, when it enters neighboring Aquarius the Water-bearer. Look for a slender crescent Moon next to Venus on Jan. 25th & 26th; a lovely pairing for naked eyes & thru binoculars. Each night at sunset, Venus will appear a bit higher in the sky and, by the end of the month, it will not set until 9:15 PM. Hard to miss JUPITER, the gas giant blazing at magnitude minus -2.5, high overhead at sunset. Jupiter glows twice as bright as any other point of light in the sky, except Venus. In early January, Jupiter crosses the border from Aries the Ram into Pisces the Fish, & appears conspicuous among the relatively dim background stars of both these constellations. Look for the waxing crescent Moon close to Jupiter on Jan. 29th. 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. Larger scopes will reveal Jupiter's dark equatorial belts, (one on either side of a brighter equatorial zone), the giant red spot, & other dynamic surface features. MARS returns to our evening sky in January. The Red Planet rises in the east by 11:30PM early in the month, and by 9:30PM at months end. Mars nearly doubles in brightness this month, from magnitude 0.2 to magnitude minus -0.5, & appears prominent in the eastern sky. Notice the orange-red glow of the planet, in stark contrast to the relatively colorless stars that surround it in southern Leo. By the end of January, look for Mars high in the western sky as day breaks. Early in the month, SATURN rises in the east by 2AM & shines at magnitude 0.6. At months end, Saturn will rise by midnight. Look for Saturn just 7 degrees ENE of Spica, Virgo's brightest star. Saturn shines with a slightly brighter, golden hue compared to blue-white Spica. By 5AM, Saturn & Spica stand side by side, high in the southern sky, with Saturn on the left. A last quarter Moon lies below this pair on the morning of January 16. Saturn's spectacular ring system currently tilts 15-degrees to our line of sight from Earth. This wide angle affords magnificent telescopic views. MERCURY, currently in retrograde (heading back toward the Sun), is visible in the morning sky during the first week of January. Mercury sinks toward the horizon with each passing morning, & by mid-month, the tiny innermost planet is washed out by the light of the rising Sun. Early risers will be treated to a SPECTACULAR MORNING SKY! At around 6AM, look for the Southern Cross (Crux), very low in the south. To view Crux, you'll need an unobstructed view to the southern horizon. Look for 2 bright stars, Alpha & Beta Centauri, which "point" to the Roman-style cross to their right/west. At that time of morning, you should be able to see all the way from Polaris, (the North Star), to the bottom star in the Southern Cross, Acrux. JANUARY SKYWATCH UPDATE IN PROGRESS... For a January Hawaiian sky map & sky watch column visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium (bishopmuseum.org).

Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii

 

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