This Week’s Sky at a Glance, January 7- January 14 ~by Curt Nason
Can you bear to be outside when it is raining cats and dogs? Or do you slither, sidle or hop back inside? If you have a clear, dark sky this week, check out the eastern sky around 10 pm to test your mettle and constellation hunting skills. There may be four dogs, three cats, two bears, a hare, a snake and a crab to greet you. Oh, and a unicorn if you believe in them.
Start looking toward the southeast where Orion is hunting. Below his feet is Lepus the Hare, staying immobile in hopes that Orion’s canine companions overlook him. Can you see the ears pointing to Rigel at Orion’s foot? Following Orion’s belt to the left brings you to sparkling Sirius at the heart of Canis Major the Big Dog, and it doesn’t take a great imagination to see a dog in this group of stars. Orion’s shoulders and head form an arrowhead that points toward bright Procyon, one of only a few visible stars in Canis Minor the Little Dog. Use your imagination to see Monoceros the Unicorn between the two dogs.
Now find the Big Dipper in the northeast. It forms the rear haunches and tail of Ursa Major the Big Bear, and from a rural area the legs and head of the bear can be seen easily. The two stars at the front of the bowl of the Dipper point northward to Polaris, the North Star, at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper, which is officially Ursa Minor the Little Bear. Below the handle of the Big Dipper are the two main stars and hounds of Canes Venatici the Hunting Dogs, seemingly nipping at the big bear’s butt.
Well below the bowl of the Big Dipper is Leo the Lion, recognized by the stellar backwards question mark of its chest and mane, with Regulus at its heart and a triangle forming its tail and hind legs. A faint triangle of stars between Leo and the Dipper is Leo Minor, the Little Lion. The third cat is Lynx, a faint line of stars running from Little Leo and past the front of Ursa Major. Between Regulus and Procyon is the head of Hydra the Water Snake, which will take much of the night to rise completely; and faint, crabby Cancer is above Hydra’s head. Stay warm and dry, and happy hunting.
This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 8:01 am and sunset will occur at 4:51 pm, giving 8 hours, 50 minutes of daylight (8:03 am and 4:59 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:58 am and set at 4:59 pm, giving 9 hours, 1 minute of daylight (8:00 am and 5:07 pm in Saint John).
The Moon is full on Thursday. I love to watch the full Moon setting in morning twilight this time of year. Also on Thursday, Venus reaches its greatest elongation from the Sun and passes just above Neptune. A small scope will now show Venus in its half-lit phase. Mars is less than 10 degrees east of Venus. In midweek Saturn rises two hours before the Sun and a half hour before Mercury. Jupiter rises less than an hour after midnight.
The Saint John Astronomy Club meets on January 7 at 7 pm in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre. The William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club in Fredericton meets on Tuesday at 7 pm in the UNB Forestry / Earth Sciences Building. All are welcome and free to attend.
Questions? You can contact Curt Nason here.