Photo of the Week. A clear day, light clouds
stretching out to the horizon, gives hope for an especially starry
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, January 12, 2007.
Nearly the entire week is spent with the Moon in its waning crescent phase, allowing for
dark evening skies,
new Moon not reached until the night of Thursday, January 18.
Early in the week the Moon makes a series of passages. An
especially nice one will occur the morning of Monday the 15th when
it will be seen just barely to the south of Antares in Scorpius with Jupiter
several degrees up and to the left of the pair, the sight well
worth getting up early for. (The Moon will occult Antares as seen
from southern Africa, South America, and Antarctica.) The
following morning, that of Tuesday the 16th, you will find the Moon
almost immediately to the right of Mars.
With Jupiter now rising just after 4 AM, well before the onset of
twilight, it is easy to find, indeed impossible not to, as by late
twilight it is well up in the southeast. Mars is a different matter. Though just
over the line into first magnitude, it is still much fainter than
Jupiter. Moreover its rising closely tracks the onset of dawn, and
will continue to do so until the end of April, making it rather
difficult to see in growing morning twilight. With the Sun now rising ever
later as winter creeps slowly toward spring, you'll have to look
ever earlier to spot the red planet.
While the morning holds Jupiter and Mars, the evening rather
symmetrically hosts Saturn and Venus. Saturn,
rising just after 7 PM to the west of Regulus in Leo, is then up the rest of the night, crossing the meridian to the south around 2 AM. By
dawn it lies well into western skies.
Venus, easily visible in bright southwestern twilight, now makes
something of a transition, as around Thursday the 18th it finally
sets just as twilight ends. That same day, Venus passes 1.4
degrees south of Neptune, a
passage appreciated only in thought, as it will be impossible to
Comet McNaught, which
became unexpectedly bright, is now out of sight for northerners as it plunges
into the southern hemisphere.