Title: January Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: January 2013
Comments: The Winter Sky is truly mesmerizing! Orion, easily recognizable by the 3 stars in his famous belt, & neighboring constellations Taurus, Gemini, Auriga, Canis Major & Minor, boast some of the brightest stars in the sky; (the Winter Hexagon: Sirius, Procyon, Capella, Aldebaran, Pollux, & Rigel). Dazzling JUPITER dominates the evening sky from January through May. Throughout January, the gas giant gleams brilliantly in central Taurus, nestled between the Pleiades & Hyades star clusters, just 6-degrees NW of Aldebaran, the red-giant star seen as the "eye of the bull." At magnitude minus -2.6, Jupiter is the brightest object in our night sky (other than the Moon). It shines 3 times brighter than the sky's brightest star, Sirius, which rises near the end of twilight. With a small telescope or good binoculars, you can view Jupiter's 4 bright Galilean moons in their ever-changing configurations. 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. Look for MARS, low in the southwestern sky after sunset. Mars appears ruddy-reddish, glimmering at magnitude 1.2 all month, & is fairly easy to spot, IF you have a clear & unobstructed horizon. The Red Planet moves eastward quickly, relative to the background stars of Capricornus, then glides into Aquarius on Jan. 29th. Mars maintains roughly the same altitude every night, & sets about 90 minutes after the Sun. The early morning sky offers some exquisite views of SATURN; rising by 1:45AM at mid-month, and an hour earlier at month's end. Best views come about an hour before dawn, when the Ringed Planet stands more than 30-degrees high in the south. Saturn appears in Libra, a constellation devoid of bright stars and, at magnitude 1.0, easily outshines its neighbors. Saturn's rings open wider than they've been since 2006, tilting at 19-degrees to our line of sight from Earth, & afford impressive views through even a small telescope. Stunning VENUS rises about an hour ahead of the Sun, from mid-month until month's end. The brilliant planet shines at magnitude minus -3.7, & appears like a beacon in the southeast before dawn. After disappearing in the twilight glow during February, Venus returns to view after sunset in May. MERCURY reaches superior conjunction on Jan. 18th, when it passes on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth. In early February, the tiny innermost planet returns to view in our evening sky, low in the southwest just after sunset. The Southern Cross, (Crux), is viewable (in Hawaii) just before sunrise this month. Crux rises high enough for viewing by 05:00AM. To view Crux, you'll need an unobstructed view to the southern horizon. By 5AM Crux should be upright, very low on the southern horizon (nearly due South). Best viewing between 5:30 ? 6:15AM. Look for 2 bright stars, Alpha & Beta Centauri, which "point" to the Cross to their right/west. At this 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; (An important north-south navigational star-line, "Kaiwikuamo'o" ? the Backbone). For a January Hawaiian sky map, visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium (bishopmuseum.org).

Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii

 

>> Email Roz <<