Night Sky for January, 2010
Astronomer Tom Whelan summarises what is in the Taranaki heavens for each month.
Sun: The Earth is at perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun for the year, on January 3rd.
Moon: There are two Full Moons, this month: the 1st and 30th. Last Quarter is on the 7th and New Moon is on the 15th. First Quarter follows on the 23rd. [Image1]
Meteor Shower: The Centaurids begin on the 28th of the month. These originate near the Pointers, and typically produce around five meteors an hour, plus the occasional fireball.
Mercury moves into the morning sky after the 5th. It is best observed during the last week of January, when it rises around 4.30am. Look a little south of east for a bright, yellowish star, a short distance above the horizon.
Venus is too close to the Sun to be easily observed. It moves into the evening sky after the 12th.
Mars is with us throughout the night as it comes to Opposition at the end of the month. Look for a very bright, reddish star in the north east sky around 9.30pm. The Moon appears close to the planet on the 4th and 30th.[Image2]
Jupiter is getting lower in the evening sky and is best viewed shortly after sunset. On the 18th, the crescent Moon will be 5 degrees away from Jupiter.
Saturn rises around midnight, and is readily found in the north eastern sky in the constellation of Virgo.[Image3]
Stars and Constellations
Orion continues to dominate the summer evening sky. Slightly to the east, the brightest star in the heavens, Sirius, is readily seen.[Image4]
Crux, the Southern Cross, is very low in the southern sky.
Almost overhead is the star Achernar, main star in the long straggling constellation of Eridanus. Nearby, at a similar
altitude, is Canopus, second only to Sirius in brilliance.
Towards the northern horizon is the constellation of Auriga, the Charioteer. Above it can be found Pleiades and Taurus, while further east is Gemini.
(Prepared for The Taranaki Daily News by Tom Whelan, Cape Egmont Observatory.)
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