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January 2009: Happy New Year

January 2009

This is a special year because it is the 400th anniversary of the first astronomical use of the telescope and it has been designated as the International Year of Astronomy. During the year there will be many events all around the world and it is best to check your National Node to find out what's happening near you. One of the biggest global events during the year is likely be the 100 hours of astronomy (2-5 April).

The News

In the news this month:

365 Days of Astronomy

The dawn of 2009 brings with it a new astronomy podcast. This podcast - 365 Days of Astronomy - will produce a new episode for every day of 2009. The twist is that this podcast is created by anyone with an interest in astronomy. Dr Pamela Gay tells us about the podcast and how to get involved. If you're shy or just prefer to listen, make sure that you subscribe to the 365 Days of Astronomy RSS feed or via iTunes.

Favourite Images of 2008

With it being the start of the new year, Nick and Stuart decided to look back over their favourite astronomical images of 2008.

There were a couple of late submissions via Twitter that deserve honorable mentions:

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

High in the south is the constellation of Orion the Hunter with a line of three stars making up his belt. Below the central one is the Sword of Orion. By eye you might see a hazy glow but with binoculars you should definitely see a smudge. A small telescope shows a lovely region of dust and gas illuminated by four stars called the Trapezium. The three stars of Orion's belt point down towards the star Sirius. Just below Sirius you should pick up a little cluster - M41 - which contains a nice red giant star at its heart. Up to the right of Orion's Belt is Taurus the Bull containing the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters. Above Orion is the constellation Auriga with the bright star Capella at its head. Auriga contains quite a few open clusters. Up to the left is Gemini the Twins with the bright stars Castor and Pollux. There is a rather nice cluster - M35 - at the foot of the uppermost of the twins.

Jupiter has been relatively low in the evening sky for some months now. Saturn is the best placed planet in the sky and rises at about 10:30pm at the start of January and around 9pm by the end of the month. It can be seen high in the southern sky in the ours before dawn. Saturn is about magnitude +0.8. Mercury rose out of the sunset glare at the end of December. Mars is too close to the Sun to observe. Venus is low in the west after sunset and is gradually moving further in angle from the Sun. Its brightness is around magnitude -4.5.

Southern Hemisphere

Just to the east of south at around 10pm you will see Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is actually a triple system, one of which is Proxima Centauri - the nearest star to the Sun. Up to the left of Alpha Centauri you'll see Beta Centauri. Alpha Centauri is just over 4 light years away but Beta Centauri is over 500 light years away so it must be inherently very bright. Alpha and Beta Cenaturi can be used to find Crux - the Southern Cross. Just to its lower left is a prominent dark region named The Coalsack. It's a dense region of dust and gas about 2000 light years from us. To the left of Alpha Crucis and Beta Crucis is the Jewel Box. It contains about 100 visible stars and is about 10 million years old.

For more information check out Ian's Night Sky pages for January 2009.

Odds and Ends

Listener Terry Goodfellow mentioned that he visited Mt John Observatory in New Zealand after hearing our report on it on the April 2006 edition of the Jodcast.

Over the holidays we had a few problems with our webserver which meant that our website was inaccessible for quite a bit of the time. To be nice to our server we didn't get around to releasing the second of our promised video episodes. It will go up on the site once things have settled down. Thanks to our twitter followers for their suggestions on ways to reduce the strain. We are trying out the Coral Content Delivery Network which should cache copies of the HD video closer to the user.

Show Credits

News:Megan Argo
Interview:Dr Pamela Gay and Stuart Lowe
Interview:Nick Rattenbury and Stuart Lowe
Night sky this month:Ian Morison
Presenters:Nick Rattenbury and Stuart Lowe
Editors:Stuart Lowe
Intro script:David Ault
The Educator - model 101:Bruce Busby
Sarah Connor:Gwendolyn Jensen Woodard
John Connor:David Maciver
Website:Stuart Lowe
Cover art:NGC 6543/The Cat's Eye Nebula. Credit: CREDIT: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI

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