Sky at a Glance 2021 January 23 – 30

Photo showing Orion the Hunter with his club about to strike the Moon.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2021 January 23 – 30 ~by Curt Nason

Cold wind on the harbour and rain on the road, wet promise of winter brings recourse to coal.
There’s fire in the blood and a fog on Bras d’Or; the giant will rise with the Moon.”
(Giant, by Stan Rogers)

On Sunday afternoon the constellation Orion, mythological giant son of Poseidon, rises with the waxing gibbous Moon. We won’t see the constellation, of course, until evening twilight dwindles; but over the evening watch him become a New York Giant leaping to catch a lunar football.

When the Moon is full or nearly so amateur astronomers can get a little grumpy because the moonlight washes out the faint galaxies, nebulae and comets. That is also when the Moon gets less interesting to observe, but this time of year the nearly full Moon can play a role in some imaginative stargazing. On Sunday evening it is above Orion, looking like a football approaching his outstretched right hand. Will he catch it in the end zone and be a hero like Perseus, or miss it and be a goat like Capricornus? With the Moon in Taurus Sunday and in the feet of Gemini on Monday, we also have a Chicago Bull passing the ball to a Minnesota Twin for an all-star all-sport soccer game. Is that a lacrosse stick in Orion’s hand?

What if it is cloudy? Do what Stan Rogers recommends in his song: “Light a torch, bring a bottle and build the fire bright. The giant will rise with the Moon.”

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:51 am and sunset will occur at 5:11 pm, giving 9 hours, 20 minutes of daylight (7:53 am and 5:19 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:43 am and set at 5:21 pm, giving 9 hours, 38 minutes of daylight (7:46 am and 5:28 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is near the M35 star cluster in Gemini on Monday and it is full on Thursday. Mercury reaches greatest elongation from the Sun this Saturday, setting 100 minutes after sunset and outshining every star except Sirius. Mars is high in the south in early evening, with Uranus sitting half a binocular field lower right it. Venus rises 50 minutes before sunrise this weekend, shining easily through morning twilight. Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun this Sunday, followed by Jupiter on Thursday.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm and view archived shows.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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