Skywatch Line for Wednesday, January 11th, and Thursday, January 12th, 2017

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, January 11th, and Thursday, January 12th, written by Louis Suarato.

The Full Moon occurs at 6:34 a.m. Thursday. Some Native American tribes called January’s Full Moon the Full Wolf Moon. Look for the nearly Full Moon to rise at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, and set at 7:12 a.m. Thursday, 38 minutes after reaching its 100% illuminated phase. As the Moon rises in the constellation Gemini, look to its lower left, in the constellation Cancer, for the Beehive Cluster, also known as M44. Although the constellation in which it resides is faint, the Beehive Cluster can be seen easily through binoculars. M44 contains about 1,000 stars, and stretches 1.5 degrees across the sky, or three Full Moon diameters. This open star cluster is estimated to be between 520 and 610 light-years away, making it one of the nearest star clusters to our solar system.

Venus reaches its greatest eastern elongation Thursday, at 47 degrees from the Sun, so look high over the southwestern horizon for the bright planet. You’ll find Mars 9 degrees to Venus’ upper left. Thursday night, look for Neptune less than a half degree to Venus’ lower left. Jupiter rises about a half hour after midnight in the constellation Virgo. Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, is just 4 degrees to Jupiter’s lower right. Jupiter is at its western quadrature, that is, 90 degrees west of the Sun. A telescopic view of Jupiter this month will show its western limb considerably more shadowed. Saturn rises at 5:22 a.m. Thursday, followed Mercury about 20 minutes later, providing an opportunity to view 6 planets between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. If you’d like to attempt to see all seven planets, look for Uranus in the constellation Pisces. Uranus will be about 42 degrees over the southwestern horizon after 10 p.m. Wednesday. Wednesday is the anniversary of Willian Herschel’s discovery of the first two moons of Uranus. In 1787, Herschel discovered the moons, later to be named Ariel and Umbriel, six years after he discovered the planet.

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