The Sky This Week from January 3 to 12 – Astronomy Magazine

Saturday, January 4The Quadrantid meteor shower reaches its peak this morning. The slightly gibbous Moon sets around 1 a.m. local time, leaving nearly five hours of darkness for watching. The Quadrantid shower typically produces up to 120 meteors per hour, an average of two per minute, so observers should be in for a great show if the weather cooperates. The meteors appear to radiate from a spot in the northern part of the constellation Botes an area once occupied by the now-defunct constellation Quadrans Muralis a region that climbs highest just before dawn.

Sunday, January 5Earth reaches perihelion, the closest point to the Sun during its year-long orbit, at 3 a.m. EST. The two then lie 91.4 million miles (147.1 million kilometers) apart. It surprises many people to learn that Earth comes closest to the Sun in the dead of winter, but the cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year arises because the Sun lies low in the sky.

The Sun is in the news more than once today. Although people in the Northern Hemisphere experienced the shortest day of the year two weeks ago (at the winter solstice December 21), the Sun has continued to rise slightly later with each passing day. That trend stops this morning for those at 40 north latitude. Tomorrows sunrise will arrive a second earlier than todays. This turnover point depends on latitude. If you live farther north, the switch occurred a few days ago; closer to the equator, the change wont happen until later this month.

Monday, January 6Venus gleams in the southwestern sky after sunset. The brilliant planet stands out just a half hour after sunset, when it appears 20 above the horizon, and remains on display until 7:30 p.m. local time. Shining at magnitude 4.0, it is by far the brightest point of light in the night sky. A telescope shows Venus disk, which spans 13" and appears about 80 percent lit.

Tuesday, January 7The brightest star in the sky (after the Sun, of course) puts on quite a show on January evenings. Gleaming at magnitude 1.5, Sirius shines nearly four times brighter than the next brightest star visible from mid-northern latitudes: Arcturus in the constellation Botes. Sirius currently rises before 7 p.m. local time and ascends in the southeast throughout the evening hours.

Wednesday, January 8If youre game for a quick evening challenge, try to spot Neptune through binoculars. The distant planet lies 30 high in the southwest near the end of evening twilight and doesnt set until nearly 10 p.m. local time. The magnitude 7.9 world appears against the backdrop of Aquarius, 1.0 west-southwest of the 4th-magnitude star Phi (f) Aquarii. Youll need binoculars to spy Neptune and a telescope to see its blue-gray disk, which spans 2.2".

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The Sky This Week from January 3 to 12 - Astronomy Magazine

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