This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2022 December 31 – 2023 January 7 ~by Curt Nason
This time of year the brilliant winter constellations really catch the eye, but this is also a good time to revisit some favourites of the past season. If you have a good view to the north, go out around 8 pm to observe two of the best known asterisms in the sky. To the northwest the Northern Cross stands upright, with its base star Albireo about ready to set. The cross forms most of Cygnus the Swan, now making its signature dive into what I hope is an unfrozen lake. To the northeast, the Big Dipper stands on its handle. In a rural area you can probably see the rest of the stars that make up the Great Bear, Ursa Major.
Stretching overhead are the autumn constellations of Cassiopeia, Andromeda and Perseus. With binoculars, look for a miniature version of Draco around the brightest star in Perseus and the galaxy M31 in Andromeda. If you draw a line across the tips of the W of Cassiopeia and extend it by about the same distance into faint Camelopardalis, you might chance upon a string of about 20 stars called Kemble’s Cascade. From a dark area, try to pick out the Milky Way running from Cygnus through Perseus and the feet of Gemini, to Canis Major in the southeast.
This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 8:01 am and sunset will occur at 4:43 pm, giving 8 hours, 42 minutes of daylight (8:03 am and 4:51 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 8:00 am and set at 4:50 pm, giving 8 hours, 50 minutes of daylight (8:02 am and 4:58 pm in Saint John). The earliest sunrise occurs early in the week, and around noon on Wednesday the Earth will be closest to the Sun at a mere 147,098,925 kilometres: The Supersun!
This Sunday around 5:50 pm, give or take a few minutes, telescope users without a hangover might catch Uranus reappearing from behind the Moon. The Moon passes near Mars on Tuesday and is full on Friday, January 6. Mercury and Venus are heading in opposite directions after sunset, with Mercury reaching inferior conjunction next Saturday. Saturn sets around 8 pm toward the end of the week so observe it early. On Tuesday a telescope will show Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io reappear from the planet’s shadow at 6:46 pm, and at 8:59 its icy moon Europa disappears behind the planet. On Thursday Europa’s shadow will transit Jupiter’s cloud top between 5:57 and 8:23 pm.
The Saint John Astronomy Club meets at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on January 7 at 7 pm.
Questions? Contact Curt Nason.