Photo of the Week. Waxing gibbous just past first
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, January 6, 2012.
Welcome to Skylights' first full week of the New Year with hopes
for all good things in 2012.
And we start with a quiet week, with the full Moon reached the night of Sunday, January 8.
The evenings of Friday the 6th and Saturday the 7th we thus see the
Moon rising in the fat waxing gibbous
phase, while during the remainder of the week the Moon fades in the
waning gibbous while still shedding
considerable Moonlight upon the land.
Given the way the planets are spread across the sky, the Moon in
its easterly progression against the stars meets up with none at
Leaving our lunar companion, we begin the evening parade with Venus. Now setting more than an hour past the end of
twilight, the planet makes a brilliant impact in the southwest as
darkness settles in. The night of Thursday the 12th, it passes
just over a degree south of Neptune. Then
as twilight draws to a close, you can admire the second brightest
of planets, Jupiter, which crosses the meridian to the south just about as
twilight ends, then spends the rest of the night in the western sky
until it sets around 1:30 AM. Next in the progression is Mars. Rising in southeastern Leo about 10 PM, the red planet does not transit the
meridian until 4:30 AM, well over an hour before dawn begins to
light the sky. Saturn, though, remains a morning object. The ringed
planet, rising still to the northeast of Spica in Virgo just a hair before Jupiter sets, finally crosses
to the south about as it fades into morning's light.
By the time the sky darkens, the Great Square of Pegasus will have moved over into the western half of
the sky. With early Moonlight fading away, directly south of the
Square's center find the Circlet
of Pisces, the ring representing
part of the western of the two Fishes. The remainder of the constellation then wraps dimly to the
south and east around the celestial Horse. For stark contrast then
look to the east to find Orion
with his three-star Belt, the
figure so bright that Moonlight hardly bothers him at all.