January Skies

3rd through to the 12th, Quadrantid Meteor shower, with peak activity on the 3rd/4th they can be seen in the constellation Bootes (figure 1 & 2).

The radiant zone is circumpolar (always above horizon). Activity will be throughout the night.

Best viewing of display just prior to dawn (9am GMT).

Providing a totally dark sky there should be approximately 120 meteors per hour at 79º above the horizon.

Asteroid 2003 EH1 is responsible for the shower.

Figure 1: Radiant of Quadrantid meteor shower.

Figure 2: Quadrantid meteor Shower.

10th will be a penumbral lunar eclipse (figure 3 & 4), where the moon passing through Earth’s shadow, between approximately 17:08 and 21:12 GMT.

Visible in the Eastern sky, the moon will be 24° above horizon at time of maximum eclipse which will be 19:11 GMT.

Figure 3: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. The geometry of the Earth's shadow. Within the Earth's penumbral shadow, the planet covers some fraction the Sun's disk. Only within the smaller umbra does the Earth cover the entirety of the Sun's disk. Any areas of the Moon's surface that pass through the penumbra appear darker than usual as the Earth is obstructing some of the sunlight that usually illuminates them. Areas within the umbra, meanwhile, receive no illumination from the Sun at all.

The penumbra causes only a slight darkening of the Moon's surface, with the Moon still exposed to some direct sunlight, so this type of eclipse is easy to miss.

Figure 4: The Moon's orbit is tipped up by 5° relative to the Earth's orbit around the Sun, represented by the grid above. Lunar eclipses only occur at full moon if they occur when the Moon is close to the Earth–Sun plane, at points called the Moon's nodes.

15th to 25th will see the γ (gamma) Ursae Minorid Meteor shower (figure 5 & 6), with maximum activity on the 19th at 22:00 GMT.

In the constellation Ursa Minor with the radiant being circumpolar, meaning the shower will be active throughout the night.

Radiant of the shower will appear at a peak altitude of 74° above horizon and you may see up to 2 meteors per hour at the peak.

Figure 5: γ Ursae Minorid Meteor shower in constellation Ursa Minor.

Figure 6: γ Ursae Minorid Meteor.

28th will see the Moon and Venus in close approach (figure 7).                                   They will become visible approximately 17:19 GMT as dusk sky fades, 25° above South Western horizon. Setting 3 hours and 43 minutes after the Sun.

They will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the unaided eye or through a pair of binoculars.

Figure 7: Close approach of Moon and Venus.

WARNING: Never attempt to view through binoculars, telescope or any optical aid an object near to the Sun. Also, never attempt to view the Sun unaided, doing so may result in immediate and permanent blindness. Always use astronomical approved viewing equipment.

The Stellarium software will assist greatly in locating objects in the sky.

Mark R Smith FRAS


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