Sky at a Glance Jan 27 – Feb 3

Photo showing the constellation Monoceros

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, January 27 – February 3 ~by Curt Nason

Monoceros is a constellation that is easy to locate, sandwiched between Orion’s dogs Canis Major and Canis Minor, but it is not easy to see. From urban areas its dim stars are as elusive as the unicorn they depict. It was one of eight new constellations created on a globe by the Dutch cartographer Petrus Plancius around 1612. Of those eight, only Monoceros and Camelopardalis are recognized as official constellations today. Monoceros is situated within the winter Milky Way, which is apparent in rural skies.

Despite being a dim constellation, Monoceros is home to some favourite targets of astrophotographers, in particular the beautiful Rosette Nebula. Another is the combination of the Cone Nebula, Christmas Tree Cluster and the Fox Fur Nebula. Check the Internet for their stunning images. Monoceros has one Messier object within its boundary, the large open cluster M50, otherwise known as the Heart-Shaped Cluster. It can be seen in binoculars about 40% of the distance from Sirius to Procyon. Three other open clusters on the Messier list are found near Monoceros but lie officially within other constellations. They are the close pair of M46 and M47 in Puppis, and M48 in Hydra.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:47 am and sunset will occur at 5:17 pm, giving 9 hours, 30 minutes of daylight (7:50 am and 5:24 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:39 am and set at 5:27 pm, giving 9 hours, 48 minutes of daylight (7:42 am and 5:34 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full on Wednesday morning, and just after it sets for most of New Brunswick it enters Earth’s shadow for the beginning of a total eclipse. If we are lucky and dedicated, we might catch the subtle gray shading of the penumbra on the Moon when it is near the horizon. It won’t look blue just because it is full for the second time this month; it should look orange for those west of us who get to see the total eclipse; and, if it looks super huge Wednesday morning, it always does when it is near the horizon thanks to an optical illusion. Jupiter and Mars are well-placed in the south for morning observing, while Saturn can be found far to their lower left above the lid of the Sagittarius Teapot asterism.

EOS Eco-Energy Inc. in Sackville is hosting a presentation on light pollution and astronomy, entitled De-Lighting the Night Sky, on January 27 from 4 to 6 pm at Open Sky (12 Folkins Drive). The Saint John Astronomy Club meets on February 3 at 7 pm in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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