This Week’s Sky at a Glance, January 7 – 15


■ Jupiter continues to shine excessive and vibrant within the southwest at nightfall this week. Way all the way down to its decrease proper Saturn is sinking towards the sundown, whereas Mercury approaches Saturn day-to-day from beneath. See the scenes under.

Today Mercury is at biggest elongation, 19° east of the Sun.

Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury at dusk, Jan. 7, 2022
Mercury simply outshines Saturn this night; they’re magnitudes –0.5 and +0.7, respectively. But watch Mercury fade all week whereas Saturn stays the identical. They’re nonetheless approaching one another, however they will not have a conjunction. Mercury will get inside 3.4° of Saturn on January twelfth, then backs away and flees.
Mars and Antares low in the dawn, Jan. 8, 2022
Antares and Mars are step by step working their way increased within the brightening daybreak. Your greatest look is perhaps 60 minutes earlier than dawn, earlier and in a darker sky than proven right here.


■ After dinnertime, the large Andromeda-Pegasus advanced runs from close to the zenith way down towards the western horizon.

Barely west of the zenith, spot Andromeda’s excessive foot: 2nd-magnitude Gamma Andromedae (Almach), barely orange. Andromeda is standing on her head. About midway down from the zenith to the west horizon is the Great Square of Pegasus, balancing on one nook. Andromeda’s head is its prime nook. From the underside nook run the stars outlining Pegasus’s neck and head, ending at his nostril: 2nd-magnitude Enif, due west. It too is barely orange.


■ First-quarter Moon; actual at 1:11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Come night the Moon shines excessive in dim Pisces, some 10° west of 4th-magnitude al-Rescha, the Knot of the 2 fishes’ cords.

■ Very excessive within the southwest some three fists above Jupiter, the Great Square of Pegasus stays tipped on one nook. The Square’s horizontal diagonal factors left almost at the Moon (by about its personal size).


■ The large Northern Cross in Cygnus, topped by Deneb, is sort of upright within the west-northwest proper after full darkness falls. Another hour or so and it is standing on the horizon. How straight up it stands is dependent upon your latitude.


■ The Gemini twins lie on their sides these January evenings, left of Orion. Their head stars, Castor and Pollux, are farthest from Orion, one over the opposite. (Castor is the highest one, barely the fainter of the 2.) The Castor determine’s toes are simply left of Orion’s very dim, upraised Club.


■ Low within the sundown, Mercury has now light to be lower than twice as vibrant as Saturn; they’re magnitudes +0.1 and +0.7, respectively. See under. Mercury will probably be additional dimmed with respect to Saturn by the thicker atmospheric extinction at its decrease altitude.

Mercury has closed to inside 3.4° of Saturn low in twilight. This is the closest they’re going to get this apparition. Binoculars assist once they’re this low within the sundown afterglow.


■ Auriga the Charioteer rides excessive these evenings astride the Milky Way, awaiting your eyes and scope. Use Ken Hewitt-White’s “Suburban Stargazer” information with its chart of telescopic targets in central Auriga (figuring out from the Leaping Minnow and False Minnow asterisms) within the January Sky & Telescope, web page 54.


■ Zero-magnitude Capella excessive overhead, and equally vibrant Rigel in Orion’s foot, have virtually the identical proper ascension. This means they cross your sky’s meridian at virtually precisely the identical time: round 9 or 10 p.m. now, relying on how far east or west you reside in your time zone. So at any time when Capella passes its very highest, Rigel at all times marks true south over your panorama, and vice versa.

Capella goes precisely by your zenith in case you’re at latitude 46° north: Portland, Oregon; Montreal; central France.

Two days later, Mercury and Saturn have turn into nearly similar in brightness


■ Here it’s the coldest very backside of the year, however the Summer Star, Vega, remains to be barely hanging in. Look for it twinkling over the northwest horizon throughout and shortly after dusk. The farther north you’re the increased will probably be. If you are as far south as Florida, it is already gone.


This Week’s Planet Roundup

Mercury is low within the west-southwest in twilight, with Saturn close to it. Watch their altering configuration, as proven above. Mercury is fading; this week it diminishes from magnitude –0.5 to +0.6.

Venus is out of sight. It goes by solar conjunction, passing 5° north of the Sun, on January eighth. Next week it would start rising low within the daybreak.

Mars, within the toes of Ophiuchus, is low within the southeast in early daybreak. It’s far and faint at magnitude +1.5. To its proper or higher proper, Mars-colored Antares twinkles a little brighter at magnitude +1.0. Mars and Antares are almost 10° aside on the morning of January eighth, widening to 13° by the fifteenth.

Mars is on the far aspect of its orbit from us, so in a telescope it is simply a tiny shimmering blob 4 arcseconds broad.

Jupiter, magnitude –2.1 in Aquarius, shines brightly within the southwest at nightfall. Spot Fomalhaut, magnitude +1.2, two fists at arm’s size to Jupiter’s decrease left.

Saturn, magnitude +0.7 in Capricornus, is that very same distance to Jupiter’s decrease proper.

Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in Aries) could be very excessive within the south in early night. See Bob King’s story and finder chart.

Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) is far decrease within the southwest after darkish. It provides an invisible (to the naked-eye) planet to the Saturn-Jupiter line, 20° higher left of Jupiter.

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — together with the phrases up, down, proper, and left — are written for the world’s mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions and graphics that additionally rely on longitude (primarily Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Standard Time, EST, is Universal Time (additionally referred to as UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time) minus 5 hours.

Want to turn into a higher astronomer? Learn your way across the constellations. They’re the important thing to finding all the pieces fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an out of doors nature passion. For an easy-to-use constellation information protecting the entire night sky, use the large month-to-month map within the middle of every difficulty of Sky & Telescope, printed by the American Astronomical Society.

Once you get a telescope, to place it to good use you will want a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The primary customary is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in both the original or Jumbo Edition), which exhibits stars to magnitude 7.6.

Pocket Sky Atlas cover, Jumbo edition
The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and lots of of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae amongst them. Shown right here is the Jumbo Edition, which is in exhausting covers and enlarged for simpler studying open air by red flashlight. Sample charts. More about the current editions.

Next up is the bigger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; almost 3 times as many. The subsequent up, as soon as your way round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And be sure you learn How to Use a Star Chart with a Telescope.

You’ll additionally need a good deep-sky guidebook. An spectacular one is the large (*7*) set (2+ volumes) by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope exchange charts? Not for freshmen, I do not assume, and never on mounts and tripods which might be lower than top-quality mechanically, which means heavy and costly. And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say of their Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, “A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand.”

(*15*)Audio sky tour. Out below the night sky together with your
earbuds in place, hearken to Kelly Beatty’s month-to-month
podcast tour of the heavens above. It’s free.

“The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It’s not that there’s something new in our way of thinking, it’s that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before.”
            — Carl Sagan, 1996

“Facts are stubborn things.”
            — John Adams, 1770

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