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The night sky for January 2019

Northern Hemisphere

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the northern hemisphere's night sky during January 2019.

  • Note the Total Eclipse of the Moon on the morning of January 21st

    The Planets

    • Jupiter.Jupiter starts the month rising around 5 a.m., and brightens from magnitude -1.9 to -1.9 as the month progresses whilst its angular size increases slightly from 31.8 to 33.6 arc seconds. The highlights show how it combines with Venus to give us some wonderful views in the East before dawn.

    • Saturn.Saturn passes behind the Sun on the 2nd of January so will not be visible in the pre-dawn eastern sky until around the third week of the month shining with a magnitude of +0.6. With a disk of ~15 arc seconds across and with rings spanning over twice this, it will rise one and a half hours before the Sun by month's end.

    • Mercury.Mercury might just be glimpsed in the first few days of the month very low in the southeast just before sunrise shining at magnitude -0.4. Binoculars could well be needed as this reduces the background glare, but please do not use them after the Sun has risen.

    • Mars.Mars, though fading from +0.5 to +0.9 magnitudes during the month remains prominent in the southern sky after sunset at an elevation of ~36 degrees, increasing to 41 degrees during January as it moves north-eastwards across the constellation of Pisces. (If only it could have been at this elevation when at closest approach last year!) Its angular size falls from 7.5 arc seconds to 6 arc seconds during the month so one will not be able to spot any details on its salmon-pink surface.

    • Venus.Venus reaches greatest elongation west some 47 degrees away from the Sun on January 6th so dominates the eastern sky rising some 3 hours before the Sun. It begins January with a dazzling magnitude of -4.6. Its angular size reduces from 26.3 to 19.4 arc seconds during the month as it moves away from the Earth but, at the same time, the percentage illuminated disk (its phase) increases from 47% to 62% - which is why the brightness only reduces from -4.6 to -4.3 magnitudes. See the highlight above when it lies close to Jupiter.

    • Highlights

    • January 3rd - before dawn: Jupiter below a very thin crescent Moon.
    • Around the 6th of January (with no Moon in the sky): find M31 - The Andromeda Galaxy - and perhaps M33 in Triangulum.Around new Moon (6th Jan) - and away from towns and cities - you may also be able to spot M33, the third largest galaxy after M31 and our own galaxy in our Local Group of galaxies. It is a face on spiral and its surface brightness is pretty low so a dark, transparent sky will be needed to spot it using binoculars (8x40 or, preferably, 10x50). Follow the two stars back from M31 and continue in the same direction sweeping slowly as you go. It looks like a piece of tissue paper stuck on the sky just a bit brighter than the sky background. Good Hunting!

    • January12th - evening: Mars above a waxing Moon.Looking south in the evening if clear, Mars will be seen lying above a waxing crescent Moon.

    • January 21st - a Total Eclipse of the Moon.If clear in the hours before dawn, we should be able to see a Total Eclipse of the Moon as it moves through the Earth's shadow at times indicated on the chart. It will be fully eclipsed from 04:41 to 05:43. A nice photo opportunity.

    • January 31st - just before dawn: a thin crescent Moon lies between Jupiter and Venus.If clear just before dawn, and given a low horizon towards the southeast, one should be able to see a thin waning crescent Moon lying between Jupiter (on its right) and Venus shining brightly to its left. A nice photo opportunity.

    • January 13th and 26th evening: The Hyginus Rille.

    • Southern Hemisphere

      Haritina Mogosanu and Samuel Leske tell us what we can see in the southern hemisphere's night sky during January 2019.

    • The Shining Ones.
    • Kia Ora from New Zealand.Hi everyone, We are here at Space Place at Carter Observatory holding Galactic Conversations from the heart of Wellington in the Southern Hemisphere, my favourite place to be, with the music of the amazing Rhian Sheehan, our Wellingtonian star composer, and we are Haritina MogoČ™anu and Samuel Leske. Space Place is our historical astronomy icon here in New Zealand and we are located right at the heart of our capital city. And we are so lucky to be among the capital cities in the world from where you can still see the Milky Way.

    • Summary.As for deep sky objects, the month is perfect for observing Orion and some of the objects from the Northern Hemisphere that sit below Orion in the Southern Sky, such as the fabulous Rosette Nebula and the elusive M74. Back to the south celestial region, we can still see the Magellanic Clouds and some awesome circumpolar objects, check out our videos on how to find them on Milky-Way. And did you know that this time of the year you can see the brightest, second brightest and third brightest star in the sky from here from Wellington? If you have a solar telescope you can admire a very quiet Sun. Almost no spots adorn the Sun but we will be watching it closely to see if any appear. (Do NOT look at the sun with a telescope, binoculars or even the naked eye without protection!) Watch for the Moon, it new on the first Sunday of the month, which means that's a good week for deep sky observations, and full on the third week, the 21st of January.

    • You must wake up very early in the morning to see the other planets, which are mostly in the morning sky, so if you're a morning person then you're in for a show. Venus, Jupiter and Mercury are all visible in the morning sky, as well as the Moon in the first week of the Month and Saturn at the end of the month. You can wake up as early as 3:30 for Venus, and Jupiter is rising up every morning earlier so it catches up with Venus around the 22nd when they will rise together and then Jupiter will move higher than Venus. Saturn will be rising around 4:30 in the morning at the end of the month. So who said the sky is only for the night owls? But what is there left for the night owls if everything is in the morning sky?

    • Planets. Mars is still in the evening sky although we will need to wait until 9 PM when the Sun sets and then look northwest. Mars is still bright so it should be easy to spot. Unseen to the naked eye, to the left of Mars is Neptune and to the right is Uranus. Uranus is 19 AU from the Sun, which is 162 light minutes away. Although you can see Uranus, which has a visual magnitude of 5.8 with the naked eye from a very dark place, for Neptune you will definitely need a telescope. Both are beautiful with a bluish tint.

    • Bright Stars. So because this time of the year there are many distinctive bright stars in the night sky, I call it the season of the shining ones.

    • Constellations. So not only there are pans and pots in the Southern Sky but there are also crosses. There's the Southern Cross, the Diamond Cross and the False Cross, and these are like official asterisms. That is if you ignore the fact that every combination of four stars can look like a cross. The great thing about them is that they are teeming with amazing deep sky objects. Such is the very famous Jewel Box open cluster near the Southern Cross. Two favourites of ours are the star clusters Omicron Velorum and NGC 2516 in the False Cross region, NGC 2516 is next Avior and Omicron Velorum is next to the star Delta Velorum.

    • Clusters.And also remember that it doesn't really matter what you call the stars as long as you can remember where they are.

    • May you enjoy the beginning of another happy rotation around the sun! Thank you and Clear skies from Wellington!

    • Previous episodes:

      The Night Sky This Month is one part of the Jodcast. The full show contains the latest news, interviews with astronomers, answers to listener questions and more.

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