Skywatch Line for Wednesday, January 8th, and Thursday, January 9th, 2020

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, January 8th, and Thursday, January 9th, written by Louis Suarato.

The 96% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon rises at 2:43 p.m., Wednesday. Nightfall reveals the Moon inside the Winter Circle of the stars Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Pollux, Procyon, and Sirius. Betelgeuse, to the Moon’s lower right, in the constellation Orion, continues to fade in brightness. It is now estimated to be 1.5 magnitude, considerably dimmer than its brightness of 0.5 magnitude in October. Closer to the Moon, also to its lower right, is the star Zeta Tauri. This 3rd magnitude star, also known by the name Tianguan, meaning Celestial Gate, in Chinese, will be less than 1 degree from the Moon’s edge. Venus, shining at magnitude -4.0 dominates the west-southwestern sky until setting at 7:37 p.m. in Capricornus. Mars rises at 4:08 a.m. in Scorpius. Look for the -3.6 magnitude International Space Station to pass by Mars at 5:55 a.m., and Antares at 5:57 a.m., when Mars is 15 degrees above the southeastern horizon. The ISS will emerge from Earth’s shadow at 5:52 a.m. in the constellation Leo, and sail through Virgo before reaching Mars in Libra.

While the Moon is high over the western horizon, at about 3 a.m., Thursday, look about 1.5 degrees above it for M35, also known as the Shoe-buckle Cluster. M35 was discovered by Philippe Loys Cheseaux around 1745, and independently in 1750 by John Bevis. This open cluster of approximately 500 stars, the brightest of which are brighter than 13th magnitude and can be resolved by 10×50 binoculars, is as large as the Full Moon. The cluster has apparent magnitude of 5.3. Located at the foot of Gemini, M35 is 2,800 light-years away. M35 is the only Messier object in the constellation Gemini.

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