Night sky for January 2012

Last updated 13:49 04/01/2012

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Night Sky

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Sun: The Earth is at perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun for the year, on January 5th.

Moon: There are two First Quarters this month: the first was on the 1st, the next is the 31st. Full Moon is on the 9th and Last Quarter is on the 16th. New Moon follows on the 23rd.

Comets: Comet Lovejoy may be visible for a few days at the start of the month. Look in the dawn sky, towards the south- east. A pair of binoculars will be needed. The comet's tail should be pointing upwards from the horizon. Comet Levy will be within seven degrees of Jupiter on the 15th. Again, binoculars will be required to view this object.

Meteor Shower: The Centaurids begin on the 28th of the month. This year, moonlight will interfere with their viewing at around the peak period of February 8th.

Planets: Mercury is in the morning sky this month but it is too close to the Sun to be be readily seen.

Venus dominates the early evening sky. Look for a brilliant star in the west.

Mars moves into the evening sky this month and appears as a bright, orange-red star, low in the north-east.

Jupiter can be found almost due north after sunset.

Saturn is best viewed from around 3am onwards. It is in the constellation of Virgo, and a few degrees away from the bight star, Spica.

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.

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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- Taranaki Daily News

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