Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday January 29th and 30th, 2024 written by Joe Slomka

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday January 29th and 30th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 5:04 PM; night falls at 6:42 PM. Dawn breaks at 5:35 AM and ends with sunrise at 7:12.

Virgo houses the Moon on both nights. The 18-day-old Moon sets at 9:48 AM and rises at 11:05 PM. Tuesday’s Moon sets at 9:31 AM and rises at 10:03 PM; by Midnight it is 29° high in the southeast, 29 arc-seconds in size, 83% illuminated and sets at 9:48 AM on Wednesday.

Minor Planet (asteroid) 4Vesta remains visible in Taurus; it rises at 1:34 PM, 60° high at 7 PM, 70° highest at 8:45 PM, 98% lit, and sets at 4:12 AM.

Evening planets rise during daytime. Saturn is the first to be spotted in western Aquarius; it shines with 1st magnitude, appears 15 arc-seconds in size, 3° high at 7 PM and sets at 7:13 PM. Saturn lies 26° from the Sun, creeps closer daily and will be lost by mid-February. Neptune follows 19° behind Saturn, in Pisces, glows with 8th magnitude, 2 arc-seconds, 20° at 7 PM and sets at 8:54 PM.

Southwestern Jupiter shares Aries with Uranus, remains the brightest, glistening with minus 2nd magnitude, 40 arc-seconds, 55° high at 7 PM and sets at 12:31 AM. Monday, the moon Europa begins occultation (hidden) at 7:27 PM and ends at 9:52 PM. Tuesday, the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) begins at 2:17 AM and at 10:09 PM. Uranus trails Jupiter by 15°, shines with 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds, 63° high at 7 PM and sets at 1:35 AM.

Three Dawn planets inhabit Sagittarius, set during daytime and are close to the southeastern horizon. Venus blazes with minus 4th magnitude, rises at 5:24 AM, 12 arc-seconds and 85% lit at 7 AM. Mars lies 10° East of Venus, 1st magnitude, 4 arc-seconds, 98% lit and rises at 6:15 AM. Mercury brings up the rear, closest to the horizon, 5 arc-seconds, 6° high at 7 AM, 86% lit, and rises at 6:19 AM. Tuesday, about 40 minutes before Sunrise, Mercury and Mars are only 2° apart. Mercury is sinking into the Sun while Mars begins an appearance that reaches maximum in January 2025. The observer needs an unobstructed horizon and binoculars or telescope.

Most constellations reference Greek or Roman myths. Let us consider an unusual exception: Camelopardalis, The Giraffe. This is not an ancient constellation; it’s the invention of Bartschius, around 1612. The invented constellation recalls the story in Genesis, about how Abraham’s servant took a caravan of camels on a search for a wife for Isaac. It is the 18th largest constellation, situated between Cassiopeia and Auriga. The Giraffe is long and dim, the brightest star is 4th magnitude. Three of its stars have known planets. A favorite observation is “Kemble’s Cascade”: 20 stars in a straight line with magnitudes between 5 and 10 and ends with NGC 1502. It honors the French Francian priest Lucian Kemble, who discovered it.

There was a brief movement to take classic constellations, which were based on pagan myths, and recast them as biblical figures. The movement failed with Camelopardalis as a survivor.

Clear Skies Joe Slomka