The New Year’s Eve Skies of 2019

   The evening skies of this year’s New Year’s Eve begins at sunset with the 6-day old waxing crescent Moon to be about 3-4o from the outer planet Neptune. However with an apparent magnitude of 8 Neptune is only visible with optical assistance. On the other hand the crescent Moon with an apparent magnitude of -13 would be hard to miss!

   Later, at around midnight and centered over the southern horizon will be the ‘regular’ Northern Hemisphere winter display of stars. This is a familiar groups of bright stars in a rough circle around the constellation of Orion the Hunter, and sometimes referred to as the “Winter Hexagon” or ‘Winter Circle”.

   As the winter hexagon the member stars are Rigel in Orion the Hunter, Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull, Capella in Auriga the Charioteer, Pollux and Castor in the Gemini Twins, Procyon in Canis Minor, and Sirius in Canis Major.


   
   
   
   We’ve survived another orbit.
   
   
          Happy New Year!
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Siriusly Bright

   Seriously? Siriusly! “Bad it is,” as Yoda would say.
   The point of this is that it is during this time of the year when, for northern hemisphere observers, a large group of the brightest stars in our night skies are all above the horizon. These include the bright stars that make up what is called the winter hexagon, a six-sided shape connecting 6 different constellations. The stars, apparent magnitude, and constellation making up the Winter Hexagon are Rigel (0.15) in Orion; Aldebaran (0.84) in Taurus; Capella (0.06) in Auriga; The Gemini Twins, Pollux (1.15) and Castor (1.56); Procyon (0.37) in Canis Minor; and Sirius (-1.47) in Canis Major.
   Also adding to the seriously bright celestial group are our two brightest planets, Venus (-3.98) in the west, and Jupiter (-2.45) in the east.

[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Comet Lovejoy

   So after waiting for the skies to clear both here in Missouri and during a week in Tucson the sky was finally clear enough last night to see Comet Lovejoy. After my Astronomy class last night a few students stayed late with me outside away from campus lights in front of the ST building. From there they were able to see Jupiter rising in the east, and the stars making up the ‘Winter Hexagon’ asterism as well as the constellations associated with each of the stars. The sky was dark enough so that the Orion Nebula was visible to the naked-eye, however the comet was not visible until I brought out binoculars. Finding it last night and the next few nights should be easy as the comet will be passing a few degrees from the Pleiades.

Update:

   Last night (Friday) was another clear one, this time with temperatures in the 40’sF. I was able to take multiple exposures and managed to get the camera focused even when the lens was out to 250mm. The comet was easy to find as it was nearly straight off from the Pleiades. With binoculars it still looked like a fuzzy blob shape.

   
   
   
[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

January Apogee Moon

Full Moon at apogee

Full Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon orbits around the Sun with the Earth and from our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle Earth each month. The Moon also has a slightly elliptical-shaped orbit allowing for the Moon to have a furthest (apogee) and closest (perigee) distance from the Earth each month.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   This month the 14.7 days old full Moon reaches apogee today, 15 January – 9pm CST (16 January – 2 UT), and will more or less be at a distance of 31.87 Earth diameters (406,113 km or 252,347 miles). Since full Moon phase occurs almost 3 hours after apogee this month’s full Moon could qualify as a mini full Moon.

   The Banner picture at the top of the page is cropped from a picture I took last night.

   A recognizable star pattern that is not a constellation is called an asterism. Rising ahead of the Moon is an asterism known as the ‘Winter Hexagon’. It is a 6-sided pattern made up the bright stars form six different constellations; Orion (Rigel), Taurus (Aldebaran), Auriga (Capella), Gemini (Castor and Pollux), Canis Minor (Procyon), and Canis Major (Sirius).
   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Winter Hexagon and Jupiter

11 p.m. CST

11 p.m. CST

   The first quarter Moon rises and sets this evening near the stars of two open star clusters, the Pleiades and the Hyades, and is also close to the planet Jupiter. This part of the sky also contains a large asterism known as the winter hexagon. This is a loosely drawn figure composed of six bright stars from six constellations (go figure!). Starting with Rigel in Orion move to Aldebaran in Taurus, to Capella in Auriga, through the twin stars of Pollux and Castor in Gemini (count as one), then on to Procyon in Canis Minor, and finally to the brightest night time star, Sirius (no kidding!) in Canis Major.
   Click here to see or download a full size graphic showing the winter hexagon.

      
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Full Moon and January Qué tal

Full Moonrise and a Star Party

Full Moonrise and a Star Party

   This evening the full Moon, or near full Moon depending on your time zone, rises around the time of local sunset. As shown in this graphic the Moon is near the waistlines of the Gemini Twins and is following the ‘Winter Circle’, or ‘Winter Hexagon’ asterism from east to west.

   The January issue of Qué tal in the Current Skies is now online. This issue features an article about Stars, brightness, temperature, and distance. In the ‘theater’ are two videos – about galaxies and the telescope.
   
   
   
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.