| Observatory |
Some observing hilights
to look forward to...
The following tips on current and upcoming astronomical events
have been gathered from magazines and other sources by Dave Gamble
with the objective of giving OC RASC members a heads-up on
special personal astro-experiences to look forward to.
Mon. Jan. 1 – The Moon will join in New Year Day celebrations by presenting a ‘Super Full Moon’ this evening. Full Moon will arrive at 6.24pm, just four hours after our neighbour reaches perigee, the closest part of its orbit to Earth. This will be the closest Full Moon of the year!
Tues. Jan. 2 - The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks early tomorrow morning, though the just-past ‘Super Moon’ will compete with fainter meteor members. Fortunately the Quadrantid stream is a generous one with frequencies that can reach up to 120 meteors per hour. The shower emanates from the constellation Bootes which rises higher into the eastern sky after midnight.
Tues. Jan. 2 – Temperatures may be on the cold side right now, but we can take some consolation from the fact that today the Earth is at perihelion, the point in its orbit when it is closest to the Sun. The exact time of closest distance will be at 10pm tonight.
Fri. Jan. 5 – The waning gibbous Moon will be about two of its widths from bright Regulus in Leo tonight. At home, 79 light years away, it is actually a multiple star system. Regulus A is a very rapidly spinning oblate blue-white main sequence star which is probably coupled with a close orbiting white dwarf. Located farther away are three dim main-sequence stars.
Sat. Jan. 6 – At dawn this morning, early risers will have the opportunity to view a close pass between Mars and Jupiter. At their closest, the two planets will be only 2/3 the width of the Moon apart, so close that with the naked eye you may only see brilliant Jupiter. A telescope will reveal the wonder of the meeting as well as the disparate colours of our outer neighbours.
Mon. Jan 8 – This is Last Quarter Moon night, signaling the arrival of the next dark Moon period for deep sky imagers, observers and sketchers.
Wed. Jan. 10 – Two of Jupiter’s moons will put on a performance in the wee hours this morning. Europa and Io will do a tag team move, almost simultaneously disappearing into the banded giant’s shadow while placed to one side of the planet’s disk. Be prepared to watch for the action at 2.25am.
Thurs. Jan. 11 – Jupiter and Mars continue to provide a pleasant pre-dawn combination in the eastern sky, and early this morning the two will be complemented by the waning crescent Moon. The grouping will take place in the space of just over the width of two fingers, so it should be dramatic.
Fri. Jan. 12 – For those still in quest of seeing one of The Devil Star’s ‘blinks’, Algol will reach its minimum brightness in a two hour time period centered at 6.45pm tonight. Compare its brightness with neighbouring stars in Perseus and then check it out again around 11pm to see the difference in brightness.
Sat. Jan. 13 - The morning sky continues to offer interesting planetary viewing opportunities. In the pre-dawn hours this morning Mercury and Saturn will approach each other low in the south-eastern sky. The separation will be one and a half Moon widths, and with daybreak not far off binoculars will be your best bet. Ironically, tiny Mercury will outshine the more distant ringed planet.
Mon. Jan. 15 – The ebbing fingernail pairing crescent Moon will be seen close to Mercury before dawn this morning. The separation will be only about the width of two fingers.
Tues. Jan 16 – This is New Moon night with our neighbour completely out of the way for deep sky adventures. The treat will continue for most of the coming week.
Sat. Jan. 20 – The Moon will provide a fingerpost to the outer ice giant Neptune tonight. Look for the tiny blue disk about three moon-widths to the south of our waning gibbous neighbour.
Tues. Jan. 23 – Not wanting to leave anyone out, tonight the Moon will pass about the width of three fingers south of greenish Uranus.
Wed. Jan. 24- This is First Quarter Moon night. The refreshed Moon will present its perfectly divided disk for exploration along the fascinating crater-studded terminator.
Sat. Jan. 27 – The waxing gibbous Moon will get a bit too close to bright Aldebaran in Taurus in the pre-dawn hours this morning, creating an occultation for the Okanagan just after 3am.
Wed. Jan. 31 – It’s been quite awhile since our last opportunity to observe a total lunar eclipse, September 27, 2015 to be exact, but just before dawn this morning we will again be able to witness the dramatic sight of our neighbour transforming into a deep red colour as it enters the Earth’s Umbra. The event will start with the Moon’s first contact with the penumbra at 2.49am. By 3.47am the lunar edge will enter the umbra and mid totality occurs at 5.29am. As it exits the shadow, the Moon will start to leave the umbra at 6.08am, progressing through the penumbra and out of the shadow at 8.10am. Interestingly, this will be a ‘blue Moon’, or the second one in the month.