WHAT’S UP IN THE SKY THIS JANUARY 2018?

WHAT’S UP IN THE SKY THIS JANUARY 2018?

768 1024 alsadeemadmin

It’s the brand new year 2018. Let’s look forward to more awesome astronomy. Wondering what’s going to be up in the sky for the new month? The following is a list of astronomical events for January 2018. All dates and times were given in UAE Local Time.

January 2, 2018: Full (Super) Moon

Supermoon taken from Al Sadeem Observatory last December 3, 2017

Situated on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun, the moon will be fully illuminated (100%) on this day. For selenophiles (people who love the moon), this is the best time to observe all the surface features of this celestial object, including the craters and maria. It will start appearing at around 5:45 PM (at the eastern horizon) as it rises, and can be seen throughout the night until sunrise positioned in Orion-Gemini region. Because of its full illumination during this phase, it will not be a good time for deep-sky observation with the entire moonlight glaring out most of the faint celestial objects.

On this day as well, the Moon will be at its perigee (closest distance; specifically around 357,000 km from Earth) making it appear slightly (7%) bigger and (16%) brighter than the usual full Moon. This is the second in the “Supermoon Trilogy”, the 3 consecutive occurrences of Supermoons. This is also as the “Wolf Moon” in Native American tribe tradition when hungry wolves howled outside their site. This will be the largest supermoon for 2018.

January 2, 2018 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation

Illustration of Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation (about 12° above the eastern horizon) just before sunrise on January 2, 2017 (not to scale) (Image Credit: Stellarium)

The smallest planet in the Solar System, Mercury will appear at its highest point just a few moments before sunrise.  The maximum extent of angular separation from the Sun as seen from Earth will be at around 12° (in the UAE). This means Mercury can be only seen up to 12° above the eastern horizon, from 5:40 AM until 6:45 AM (estimated time), before disappearing from view caused by the glare of daylight from the Sun as it rises. Though it is moderately bright, observing it will be quite of a challenge from the fact that Mercury is situated near the Sun in the sky.

January 4, 2018: Quadrantid Meteor Shower

The peaks of the relatively strong meteor shower known as the Quadrantids will take place. It is projected to bring up to 100 meteors per hour under completely dark, moonless, and cloudless skies. These meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Bootes (the herdsman) but can be observed anywhere in the sky from around 2 AM until sunrise. The bright reddish-orange star Arcturus can be used as a guide in viewing the meteor shower. The space debris from asteroid 2003 EH1 entering Earth are the ones responsible for this meteor shower.

Unfortunately, the bright Waning Gibbous Moon will interfere most of the meteor shower viewing, resulting in fewer meteors to be seen (possibly up to 40 per hour in completely dark and cloudless skies). This particular meteor shower was named after an extinct constellation. A must have in observing this astronomical phenomenon is patience; lots of them and of course, comfort.

The position of Quadrantids radiant (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

January 7, 2018: Mars – Jupiter Conjunction

Planets Mars and Jupiter would appear very close to each other (around 0° 12’ angular separation) at the sky when viewed from Earth. This planetary conjunction is so close that both planets can be seen within the field of view (FOV) of a small telescope. This conjunction will be visible in the east-southeastern portion of the sky in the constellation of Libra (the scales) from around 3 AM until sunrise.  Mars would look like a faint reddish dot while Jupiter would appear as a bright white “star” slightly bigger than Mars. This will be a good opportunity for planet gazers and astroimagers.

Illustration of the Mars – Jupiter Conjunction on January 7, 2017 as viewed in a small amateur telescope (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

January 11, 2018: Moon – Mars – Jupiter Conjunction

Planets Mars and Jupiter together with the Waning Crescent Moon (about 30% illuminated) will appear close to each other in the sky on the early morning hours of this day. The conjunction will be seen at the east-southeastern horizon from 3:15 AM until sunrise. All celestial objects will be situated in the faint constellation Libra (the scales). The Moon will be about 4° northwest of both Jupiter and Mars. Mars would look like a faint reddish dot while Jupiter would appear as a bright white “star” slightly bigger than Mars. This will be a good opportunity for selenophiles, planet gazers, and astroimagers.

Illustration of the Moon-Mars-Jupiter Conjunction on January 11, 2017 (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

January 17, 2018: New Moon

On this day, the moon will not be visible as it will be situated on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, in the constellation of Libra (the scales). With no moonlight glaring much of the night sky, this is the best time to observe the deep sky objects throughout the night. It is predicted that the lunar phase will occur on this day. However, the month transition from Rabi al-Akhir to Djumada l-Ula shall take place one day later (January 18) in accordance with the Hijri Calendar 1439.

January 31, 2018: Full (Super) Moon, Blue Moon

Size Comparison of Normal Full Moon and Supermoon 2017

Situated on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun, the moon will be fully illuminated (100%) on this day. For selenophiles (people who love the moon), this is the best time to observe all the surface features of this celestial object, including the craters and maria. It will start appearing at around 5:15 PM (at the eastern horizon) as it rises, and can be seen throughout the night until sunrise positioned in the faint constellation of Cancer (the crab). Because of its full illumination during this phase, it will not be a good time for deep-sky observation with the entire moonlight glaring out most of the faint celestial objects.

On this day as well, the Moon will be at its perigee (closest distance; specifically around 357,000 km from Earth) making it appear slightly (7%) bigger and (16%) brighter than the usual full Moon. This is the third and last in the “Supermoon Trilogy”, the 3 consecutive occurrences of Supermoons. This is also as the “Wolf Moon” in Native American tribe tradition when hungry wolves howled outside their site.

This is the 2nd occurrence of the Full Moon in the same month, making it a “Blue Moon”, a colloquial term for this celestial event; coined from the notable phrase “Once in a Blue Moon” which is based in old folklore. The Full Moon will NOT turn blue in color during this celestial event.

In addition, a Total Lunar Eclipse will take place on that night; making it a “Super Blue Moon Eclipse”. It will be completely seen all over eastern Asia, Australia, Pacific region and the western portion of the Americas. Unfortunately, the entire duration of the eclipse will NOT be visible in the UAE; only the waning phases at moonrise (around 6:15 PM) until 7:15 PM.

Simulation of the Waning Phases of the Total Lunar Eclipse on Moonrise, January 31, 2018 (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

___________________________________________________________________________________________

In the UAE and other regions in the Northern Hemisphere, January is still within the winter period. Many brilliant prominent winter constellations and deep-sky objects will be seen during night time and early morning hours such as the Great Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, and the brilliant open star cluster Pleiades known as the “Seven Sisters” in Taurus. Also, notable star patterns like the Winter Triangle and Winter Hexagon can be seen. The very faint bluish planets Uranus and Neptune can be seen in the evening hours until midnight. Planets Mars and Jupiter will be visible from around 3:15 AM onwards until sunrise. The other ones, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury, are either barely or not visible few minutes before sunrise, depending on their respective apparent positions in the sky. For this month, sunrise occurrences range between 7:04 AM and 7:06 AM while sunsets shall happen between 6:07 PM to as early as 5:45 PM.

Have a pleasant New Year, everyone! Clear Skies!

Pleiades, Andromeda Galaxy, The Great Orion Nebula and the Winter Triangle Starfield taken from Al Sadeem Observatory

References

Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2018.html

Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2018&month=1&maxdiff=4 #datesel

Islamic calendar 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from Calendar.sk: https://calendar.zoznam.sk/islamic_calendar-en.php?ly=2018

McClure, B. (2017, December 31). Full moon obscures Quadrantid meteor shower. Retrieved from EarthSky: http://earthsky.org/?p=155137

McClure, B. (2018, January 1). Year’s largest supermoon on January 1-2. Retrieved from EarthSky: http://earthsky.org/?p=270121

Rendtel, J. (2017). 2018 Meteor Shower Calendar. Retrieved from International Meteor Organization: https://www.imo.net/files/meteor-shower/cal2018.pdf

Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, November 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=1&year=2018

 

Leave a Reply