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Astronomy

January Skies

Evening Planets:

After the historical “The Great Conjunction”, Jupiter and Saturn are slowly separating from each other in the SW twilight. These planets are losing altitude fast and moving into the bright glow of Sunset. These planets are becoming extremely hard to see and by the 10 January, will move into the bright glow of Sunset and be lost from view. On 9 January, these 2 planets have a conjunction with the Planet Mercury. This conjunction is unfavorable for our viewing area due to the planets extremely low position in the WSW and the planetary group setting about 30 minutes after Sunset.

Mercury makes a rather poor appearance in the WSW twilight. The planet should become visible with difficulty about 9 Jan; the same date as the conjunction. All three planets (Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury) will be very difficult to see during the conjunction. After the conjunction, Mercury will very slowly gain altitude for this evening showing. On 23 January, the planet will set about 1 hour after Sunset and this is not a very good showing of Mercury. After the 23 January, Mercury starts to lose altitude and brightness as it slowly moves into the bright evening twilight.

Mars is relatively high up in the South as evening twilight falls. As the month progresses, Mars has a large drop in brightness as it moves away from the Earth. The planet manages to set around 1 am for the whole month of January.

Morning Planet:

Venus is the sole, bright morning planet which rises in the SE during the Dawn’s bright twilight. During the 1st two weeks of the month, the planet rises about 1 hour before Sunrise. However, the second half of the month; things change for Venus. The planet rapidly loses altitude and moves towards the bright glow of Sunrise. This lower position will make seeing Venus difficult. This is the start of Venus poor showing. For the next few months, Venus will be very low to the horizon, stuck in bright twilight and will be difficult to see.

2 Jan Waning Gibbous Moon left of bright Star Regulus, Evening

2-3 Jan Quadrantids Meteor Shower

11 Jan Very thin Crescent Moon upper right of Venus, Dawn

20 Jan 1st Quarter Moon to lower right of Mars, Evening

23 Jan Waxing Gibbous Moon above bright Star Aldebaran, Evening

29 Jan 1 day past Full Moon near bright star Regulus, Evening

The Quadrantids Meteor Shower:

On the night of 2 -3 January, 2021, the Quadrantids Meteor Shower will happen. The first few hours of darkness in the early evening of 2 January will be Moon free. About 10 meteors per hour are predicted in the early evening Moon Free hours. Then after 9 pm; the Waning Gibbous Moon will rise and spoil the view of the meteors for the rest of the night. The Quadrantids are known for producing faint blueish meteors. This meteor shower is not favorable for our viewing area due to lunar interference. Unfortunately, this is a start of a trend for 2021; most meteors showers in 2021 will be spoiled by the Moon.

Gary T. Nowak

Vermont Astronomical Society