This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, January 18th and 19th.
The Sun sets at 4:50 PM; night falls at 6:40. Dawn breaks at 5:42 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 7:21.
The nine-day-old Moon rose this afternoon and, by twilight, is halfway up in Taurus. It blazes at magnitude minus ll on both nights. The Moon is Tuesday night’s central feature. During its travels, the Moon occults, or eclipses, many relatively dim stars and occasionally blocks our view of a bright star. Tuesday night is one of those nights. At about 9:30 PM, the Moon begins to eclipse the bright red star Aldebaran in Taurus. Aldebaran reappears from behind the Moon at approximately 10:44 PM. This event can be seen with the naked eye, but is best observed through stabilized binoculars or telescope. The Moon sets during pre-dawn hours.
The darkening sky reveals planets Neptune and Uranus as well as asteroid 4Vesta. Eighth magnitude Neptune still resides in Aquarius, while sixth magnitude Uranus shines in Pisces. Vesta is about 34 arc minutes from the star 20 Ceti and eight degrees below Uranus. Finder charts for all three can be found in astronomy media.
By 9 PM the Big Dipper asterism rises in the North, and appears to stand upright on its handle. Comet Catalina is visible at sixth magnitude. Monday night, it appears about five degrees above double stars Alcor and Mizar, and also about four degrees below the bright star Thuban in the constellation Draco. Tuesday night finds Catalina about seven degrees above Alcor and Mizar. Catalina is now circumpolar, which means that it does not rise or set.
Neptune, Uranus and 4Vesta all set before Midnight, when the night shift takes over. Jupiter rose at 9:18 PM, and by Midnight stands about 26 degrees above the horizon between Leo’s hind legs and Virgo’s head. While Jupiter is visible to the naked eye and its four Galilean moons through binoculars, telescopes display more detailed events. The Great Red Spot (a giant storm) is visible Tuesday morning at 3:44 AM and at 11:36 PM on Wednesday. On Wednesday, the moon Io casts its shadow on Jupiter at 12:43 AM, followed by the moon itself at 1:42 AM; Io’s shadow leaves Jupiter’s face at 2:58 AM, followed by the moon itself at 3:56 AM.
Jupiter begins a morning planetary parade, first magnitude Mars emerges about 1:15 AM between Virgo and Libra. Saturn appears next at 4:08 AM in the dim constellation Ophiuchus. Its creamy color makes its presence obvious; telescopic views of its rings are not to be missed. Venus rises at 5:03 AM, blazing at minus fourth magnitude. At Dawn, it is about five degrees above the eastern horizon and appears about 82 percent illuminated in our telescopes.
The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers hold their monthly meeting at miSci on Thursday, January 21st, at 7:30 PM. This month’s theme is a potpourri of short talks given by several club members. As usual, all club events are free and open to the public. The meeting is cancelled if weather forces miSci to close.