Dark Skies January Update
The map shows the Night Sky as seen in Mid January at around 20.00hrs. By looking Southwards and holding the chart with S at the bottom, the centre of the map will show the stars overhead with the Northern sky behind you. Using the map earlier than 20.00 will mean the star patterns - Constellations, to use the correct term - will be shifted slightly to the East , while using later in the evening, the constellations will have moved more to the West.
Assuming we‘ve all survived the Christmas and New Year binges, here are a couple of sights to look out for this month. Both Mercury and Venus will be visible after Sunset, low in the SW sky and are only little more than ½ a degree apart on the 10th. (As a rough guide, our Moon is ½ degree in diameter.) This is an excellent photo opportunity, so give it a try. Later in the month, on the 21st to be exact, a wafer thin crescent moon joins the couple for another photo shot. Jupiter is well above the eastern skyline, blazing away to the right of the “sickle” shape of the head of Leo. Striding out over the SE though, is the obvious grouping of Orion, the Hunter in Greek mythology. For those of you with binoculars or small telescopes, have a look at the area a couple of degrees below the three stars that make up the “belt” of Orion. You should find a small “fuzzy” patch of light; it’s possible to see this with the naked eye under good skies. Congratulations - you’ve found a stellar nursery, a birthplace of stars.
On the meteor front, there is one major shower this month, the Quadrantids, whose meteors appear to come from an area just below and behind the “tail” of Ursa Major - the Great Bear. Most people recognise part of this constellation because of the bright asterism we call “The Plough”, but back to the Quadrantids. This shower is best seen in the early morning hours before Sunrise, and can give a display of around 70 - 80 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, a nearly Full Moon around the maximum of Jan 4th will drown out most of the display this year.