ASTRO LOG: What to Watch Out for This January 2019

ASTRO LOG: What to Watch Out for This January 2019

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As the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) coldest month ushers in, a number of well-known winter constellations and deep-sky objects will spruce up the January sky.

The Orion nebula, Perseus cluster, Andromeda galaxy, and the brilliant open star cluster of Pleiades known as the “Seven Sisters” in Taurus (The Bull), will be more prominent in the winter sky, and can be seen as early as 7:30 P.M.

Notable star patterns, or astronomical asterisms, like the Winter Triangle and Winter Hexagon, will also adorn January winter nights.

Planets Mars and Uranus, meanwhile,will be visible after sunset until an hour before midnight. The brighter planets Venus and Jupiter can be observed at 4:30 in the morning until sunrise.

For Mercury fans (not the singer), as well as those of Saturn and Neptune, January will not be a favorable month to observe these planets because of their significant nearness to the Sun.

Expect even shorter days in January with late sunrises from 7:04 to 7:06 in the morning and early sunsets from 5:45 P.M. to 6:07 in the evening.

For more serious sky watching,Al Sadeem Astronomy has prepared below a calendar for January’s sky events.All dates and times were given in UAE Local Time (UTC+4).

JANUARY 2: CLOSE APPROACH OF THE MOON AND VENUS

The Moon and planet Venus will be at their closest proximity (around 1°16’ angular separation) in the heavens as seen from the Earth. This close approach will be visible at the east-southeastern portion of the sky in the constellation of Libra (The Scales),from fourin the morning until sunrise. The Moon will be in its waning crescent phase, meaning it will be 15 percent illuminated. Venus is expected to appear northeast of the Moon. Meanwhile, Jupiter will also make its appearance southwest of the pair.

An estimated proximity of the waning crescent Moon and Venus at 5 A.M. on January 2. Image screen grabbed from planetarium software Stellarium.

JANUARY 3: CLOSE APPROACH OF THE MOON AND JUPITER

The Moon and planet Jupiter will appear close to each other in a 3°07’ angular separation, at the eastern portion of the sky in the constellation of Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer) from 5 A.M. until sunrise. Planet Jupiter would appear as a brilliant white “star” northwest of the Moon, which will be still be at its waning crescent phase, but only a little dimmer with eight percent illumination. Also seen near the two objects is the brighter planet Venus,resting few degrees north of the pair.

An estimated proximity of the waning crescent Moon and Jupiter at 6 A.M. on January 3. Image screen grabbed from planetarium software Stellarium.

JANUARY 4: QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER

A moderately strong meteor shower known as the Quadrantids will peak, with an estimated 40 meteors per hour anticipated to grace the night under completely dark, moonless, and cloudless skies. The meteor shower appears to radiate from the constellation Bootes (The Herdsman)and can be observed anywhere in the sky from 2 A.M. until sunrise. The bright,reddish orange star Arcturus can be used as a guide to view the meteor shower.

These meteors have a mysterious origin, beginning with its name that comes from an extinct constellation, to the intergalactic object that it hails from. Quadrantids have been previously believed to be made from the debris of an asteroid named 2003 EH1, but recent findings showed that it could be the comet C/1490 Y1, which was observed by astronomers from the Orient some 500 years ago.

While the Quadrantid meteor shower is considered a major astronomical event, Al Sadeem Astronomy will not be hosting an open house for it this year. There will be a clear window to view the meteors as the waning crescent Moon will rise three and a half hours after the radiant (around 5:50 AM), but it will only be brief.

The position of Quadrantids radiant. Image screen grabbed from planetarium software Stellarium.

JANUARY 6: NEW MOON

The moon will not be visible in the night sky, because it will be situated on the same side of the Earth as the Sun—specifically in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). This is the best time to observe deep-sky objects, such as the Orion Nebula, Pleiades and fainter ones like the Crab Nebula and Andromeda Galaxy. The month transition from Rabi al-Akhir to Djumada l-Ula shall take place two days later (January 8) in accordance with the Hijri Calendar 1440.

JANUARY 6: VENUS AT GREATEST WESTERN ELONGATION

Venus, the brightest planet, will be at its highest point in the sky, beginning at 3:40 A.M. until sunrise.The planet, which is also known as the “morning star,” can be observed at the southeastern horizon,with its maximum extent of angular separation from the Sun—at 36°as seen in the UAE.

Venus at Greatest Western Elongation (about 36° above the eastern horizon) just before sunrise on January 6 (not to scale), as shown in this image screen grabbed from planetarium software Stellarium.

JANUARY 13: CLOSE APPROACH OF THE MOON AND MARS

The waxing crescent Moon—now 39 percent illuminated—will be at 5°20’ northwest of the red planet Mars in the early hours of the evening sometime at 6:15 P.M. The pair can be spotted at the southwestern part of the horizon in the faint constellation Cetus (The Sea Monster), until it sets at an hour before midnight.

The Moon-Mars Close Approach on January 13 (not to scale), as shown in this image screen grabbed from planetarium software Stellarium.

JANUARY 21: FULL MOON AT PERIGEE (SUPERMOON)

There’s a hundred percent illumination of the moon, and selenophiles—or those people who have a strong penchant for the moon—will be in for a treat as this is the best time to observe all the surface features of the Earth’s natural satellite, including its craters and lunar maria, or the large, dark, basaltic plains on the Earth’s Moon.As early as 6:20 P.M., the Moon will show itself at the east-northeastern horizon in the constellation of Cancer (The Crab).

The Moon will also be at its perigee—or its distance closest to the Earth, making it appear approximately seven percent bigger and 16 percent brighter than the usual full Moon. This is the first in the “Supermoon Trilogy,” or the three consecutive occurrences of Supermoons for 2019.

A comparison of ordinary full Moon with a Supermoon, or a full Moon at perigee.

JANUARY 22: VENUS – JUPITER CONJUNCTION

At a 2°26’ angular separation, planets Venus and Jupiter will be seen almost juxtaposed in the night sky approximately two hours before sunrise. This conjunction will be visible in the southeastern portion of the sky, specifically in the constellation of Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer), appearing as bright points of light in the dawn sky. Venus, the brighter one between the two, will be found at the west-northwest of Jupiter.

The Mars – Jupiter Conjunction on January 22 (not to scale), as shown in this image screen grabbed from planetarium software Stellarium.

JANUARY 31: CLOSE APPROACH OF THE MOON AND JUPITER

A repeat of the Moon-Jupiter approach during the first Thursday of the month will occur, but will be much closer to each other at 2°45’ angular separation when viewed from the Earth. The pair will be visible at the eastern portion of the sky in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) from 4 A.M. until sunrise. The Moon, at the its waning crescent phase (about 19 percent illuminated), will be at the west of Jupiter. Planet Venus will again make its appearance southwest of Moon and Jupiter.

Close Approach of the waning crescent Moon and Venus at 5 A.M. of January 31, as shown in this image screen grabbed from planetarium software Stellarium.

Photos of Venus, Mars, Jupiter taken from Al Sadeem Observatory (Image Credit: AldrinGabuya/Al Sadeem Astronomy)

Orion Molecular Nebula Complex and Pleiades taken from Al Sadeem Observatory(Image Credit: Thabet Al Qaissieh/Al Sadeem Astronomy)

REFERENCES
  • Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2019.html
  • Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2019&month=1&maxdiff=4 #datesel
  • Islamic calendar 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from Calendar.sk: https://calendar.zoznam.sk/islamic_calendar-en.php?ly=2019
  • McClure, B., & Byrd, D. (2019, January 1). How many supermoons in 2019? Retrieved from https://earthsky.org/?p=172164
  • Rendtel, J. (2018). 2019 Meteor Shower Calendar. Retrieved from International Meteor Organization: https://www.imo.net/files/meteor-shower/cal2019.pdf
  • Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, January 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=1&year=2019

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