Sky at a Glance January 5 – 12

Constellations looking to the north in the winter sky.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 January 5 – 12 ~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. Does the bear appear to be dancing across the horizon on its hind legs? That brings back fond memories of watching Captain Kangaroo.

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; the galaxy M31 in Andromeda; and if you draw a line right to left across the tips of the W of Cassiopeia and extend by about the same distance, 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 4:48 pm, giving 8 hours, 47 minutes of daylight (8:03 am and 4:56 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:59 am and set at 4:56 pm, giving 8 hours, 57 minutes of daylight (8:01 am and 5:03 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is new on Saturday and a very slim 20-hour-old crescent might be detected with binoculars after sunset Sunday. Early Thursday evening the Moon will pass within a binocular view below Neptune. Venus is at its greatest elongation from the Sun on Sunday. Watch the morning sky over the next few weeks as Venus and Jupiter approach each other. Mercury meets up with Saturn in the morning sky next weekend but they are rising just half an hour before the Sun. Mars sets before midnight but reveals little detail in a telescope now.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on January 5 at 7 pm, and the William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets at the UNB Fredericton Forestry – Earth Sciences building on Tuesday at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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