Photo of the Week. Winter brings crackling blue
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, January 14, 2011.
Skylights now resumes its normal weekly schedule. Thanks for your
patience and best to all for the New Year.
This is the week of the full Moon, whose
glorious beauty blots out the stars, the
exact phase reached on Wednesday, January 19. It (the Wolf Moon,
the Winter Moon, the Deep Snow Moon) is preceded by a longish run
of the waxing gibbous and followed by a
brief view of the waning gibbous, third quarter not passed until January 26.
Sun now somewhat to the east of the Winter Solstice in Sagittarius, this full Moon, opposite the Sun, will be
found gliding nicely to the east of the Summer Solstice in classical Gemini, and thus at midnight will appear very high in
the northern-hemisphere sky. The night of Saturday the 15th finds
our companion in central Taurus,
roughly between the Pleiades
and Hyades (though the lunar
glare will make them hard to see), while the night of the full Moon
Gemini's Castor and Pollux point to the southeast right
at it (depending on the time of night). Moving between
Jupiter and Saturn, the Moon sadly undergoes no
Speaking of which, though Jupiter is still nicely with us, you have
to be sure to look increasingly earlier, as the giant planet now
sets by around 10 PM. Until then, it rides gloriously (now to the
east of Uranus) in the western sky. On the night
of the full Moon, that of Wednesday the 19th, it coincidentally
passes just over a degree south of the Vernal Equinox in western
Pisces. Though the gap between Jupiter-set and the rising of
Saturn is slowly narrowing, the ringed planet still comes up about
an hour and a half after Jupiter disappears. Look for it nicely to
the northwest of Spica in Virgo, roughly between it and Porrima farther to the northwest.
Nothing, though, quite prepares one for Venus.
Rising around 4 AM, the brilliant planet passes 8 degrees north of
Scorpius's Antares the night of Saturday the
15th, the color contrast between the planet and the red supergiant
By 10 PM, Orion, rules the sky.
Central to northern winter, the great Hunter is surrounded by
Taurus and Gemini to the north, Canis
Minor and Major (his hunting
dogs) respectively to the east and southeast, by Lepus (the Hare) to the south, and
by Eridanus, the meandering River,
to the southwest.