January Skies – Beginning sees a “humpbacked” moon

Saskatchewan Skies

James Edgar

The moon begins this month at the waning gibbous phase, getting the name from “humpbacked,” like a camel. Of note, the moon occults Saturn somewhere in the world (primarily tropical and Southern Hemisphere) each lunar month after January until November. Also, a partial solar eclipse occurs on Jan. 6, visible from eastern Asia, extreme western North America, and the north Pacific Ocean. A total lunar eclipse happens on Jan. 20, visible from Africa, Europe, South America, North America, extreme eastern Asia, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. On the 1st, Venus is a little over a degree south of the moon, followed by Jupiter on the 3rd, and Mercury on the 4th. By the 10th, Neptune is 3 degrees away, on the 12th, Mars is 5 degrees north, and on the 14th, Uranus is also 5 degrees north. On the 17th, the bright star in Taurus, Aldebaran, is less than 2 degrees from the moon. The 20th is the night of the full moon, and the total lunar eclipse mentioned above. Because the moon is at perigee (closest in its orbit), large tides follow the full phase. On the 21st, the moon slides closely by the Beehive Cluster (M44). At month-end, Jupiter is within 3 degrees and Venus is occulted for viewers in eastern Micronesia, Polynesia (except Hawaii), Galapagos Islands, southern Central America, and northwest South America.

Mercury is an eastern morning-sky object, brightening each day until late in the month. In conjunction with the Sun on the 30th.

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Venus is prominent in the morning sky, especially early in the month. Look for a fine conjunction with the waning crescent Moon, which passes 1.3 degrees to the north on New Year’s Day. Reaches maximum western elongation on the 6th, when it is 47 degrees from the Sun and near dichotomy (50 per cent illuminated). Passes 2 degrees north of Jupiter on the 22nd, and has a close conjunction with the waning crescent moon on the 31st.

Mars begins at its largest and brightest for 2019, and well placed in the evening sky in the constellation of Pisces. The waxing crescent moon passes 5 degrees to its south on the 9th.

Jupiter opens the year rising about two hours before dawn among the stars of Ophiuchus, very low in the southern sky, where it will spend all of 2019. The thin, waning crescent moon passes 3 degrees to the north on the 3rd and again on the 31st. Jupiter will be 2 degrees south of Venus on the morning of the 22nd.

Saturn is in solar conjunction on the 2nd, and blotted out by the sun until late in the month.

Uranus begins the year in eastern Pisces near the Aries border, high in the evening sky for North American observers. It can be detected by the unaided eye in dark, moonless skies.

Neptune is low in the southwest evening sky among the stars of Aquarius, where it will remain throughout the year.

James Edgar has had an interest in the night sky all his life. He joined The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000, was National President for two terms, is now the Editor of the renowned Observer’s Handbook, and Production Manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honour.


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