Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday January 22nd and 23th, 2024 written by Joe Slomka

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday January 22nd and 23th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 4:45 PM; night falls at 6PM. Dawn breaks at 5:40 AM and ends with sunrise at 7:19.

The Moon appears in eastern Gemini on both nights. Monday’s 12-day-old Moon sets at 5:19 AM and rises at 1:44 PM; by 7 PM it is 51° high, appears 30 arc-seconds in size and 93% illuminated. Tuesday’s Moon sets at 6:16 AM and rises at 2:40 PM, 41° high, same size, 97% lit and sets at 7:03 AM on Wednesday.

Evening planets rise during daytime. Western Saturn is first to be seen, but slowly creeping closer to the Sun, now 33° away; it shines with 1st magnitude, 15 arc-seconds, 6° high at 7 PM and sets at 7:36 PM. Southwestern Neptune, in Pisces, 20° behind the Sun, glimmers with 8th magnitude, 2 arc-seconds, 25° at 7 PM and sets at 9:21 PM.

Southwestern Jupiter shares Aries with Uranus; is highest at 6:05 PM, flashes with minus 2nd magnitude, a large 40 arc-seconds, 57° high at 7 PM and sets at 12:55 AM. Monday, telescopic observers can witness the moon Europa begin an eclipse at 7:33 PM and end at 9:58 PM; Tuesday presents the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) beginning its transit at 1:28 AM and again at 9:20 PM. Uranus lies 12° away from Jupiter, shimmers with 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds, highest at 6:54 PM 64° at 7 PM and sets at 2:03 AM.

Minor Planet 4Vesta still lies in Taurus, smoldering with 7th magnitude, 0.4 arc-seconds, 98% illuminated, 55° highest at 9:16 PM, and sets at 4:50 AM.
Dawn planets are clumped in southeastern Sagittarius and set during daylight. Venus is still first, 33° from the Sun, blazes with minus 4th magnitude, 12 arc-seconds, 84% lit and 14° high at 7 AM. Mercury is next, 21° from the Sun, rises at 6:05 AM, shining with minus zero magnitude, 5 arc-seconds, 80% illuminated, and 7° high. Mars is last, 14° from Venus, rises at 6:22 AM, shines with 1st magnitude, 4 arc-seconds and 6° at 7 AM. On Tuesday, Mars and Mercury are only 2.7° from each other, 40 minutes before Sunrise.

If one looks up at 7:00 PM on a moonless night, the Hyades star cluster is high and forms the horns of Taurus, the Bull. The “V” shaped constellation points to a large pentagon, the constellation AURIGA. If the “V” is extended, the upper horn joins the bottom star of Auriga. The lower horn stops at a star just below. Train a telescope at that lower star, and look just above it. The hazy patch is the Crab Nebula. On July 4, 1054, a star exploded, shone brightly in daytime, and disappeared after about a year. The Crab Nebula is all that is left, a cloud of gas and debris, expanding at 600 miles per second, with a diameter of 6 light years and 6300 light years distant. Recent studies revealed that the remnant star is a pulsar, a very dense star that does not emit light, but radiation in regular bursts, hence the name. This radiation lights up neighboring gas in infrared light. This is the most conspicuous supernova remnant. In 1987, a star in southern skies similarly exploded. Like the earlier star, this one became conspicuous in night skies and left behind an expanding debris cloud.

Clear Skies Joe Slomka