Skywatch Line for Wednesday 9th, and Thursday, January 10th, 2019

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday 9th, and Thursday, January 10th, written by Louis Suarato.

The 8% illuminated, waxing crescent Moon sets at 7:16 p.m. Wednesday. Last week, China made history by accomplishing the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon. China’s Chang’e-4 probe, consisting of a lander and rover, landed in the Von Karman crater. The lunar rover, Yutu 2, began its trek out of the crater on January 3rd. High above to the Moon’s left, you’ll find Mars in the constellation Pisces. The morning planets, Venus and Jupiter, rise about an hour apart in Scorpius. Venus rises first at 3:47 a.m., followed by Jupiter at 4:49. Look over the southeast horizon before dawn for these two bright planets. A telescopic view of Venus will reveal it is 53% illuminated.

Comet 4P/Wirtanen has dimmed from 3.4 magnitude to 5.5 magnitude as it moves away from the Earth and Sun. It is still bright enough to see through binoculars. As Ursa Major rises along the eastern side of Polaris, the top two stars of the Big Dipper’s bucket point to the comet. Beyond these two stars in the Big Dipper, are Alhaud IV and Muscida. Look 2 degrees to the east of Muscida for Comet 46P/Wirtaen.

Fifty years ago Thursday, NASA successfully landed Surveyor 7 on the Moon. This unmanned spacecraft was the last in a series of exploratory missions to find a suitable landing site for Apollo 11. On January 10, 1968, Surveyor 7 landed on the rim of the crater Tycho. From that vantage point, Surveyor 7 transmitted 21,091 photos back to Earth. Unlike the previous Surveyor missions, which had already determined the feasibility of a manned landing, Surveyor 7 was the only spacecraft to land in the lunar highlands.

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