Star Calendar – January 2017

Star Calendar

January 2017

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon waxes from the westward side and wanes on the eastward but Venus (and Mercury) do so in the opposite way.

Mercury is stationary to the stars on the 8th but the Sun’s persistent eastwards motion continues to widen their separation (elongation) until the 19th. On that day astronomical twilight ends at 6:15AM with Mercury just 5 degrees above the horizon, down and to the left of Saturn (12 degrees, SW and less bright) and Antares (15 degrees, slightly S of SW, still less bright). The Moon visits these three in reverse sequence on 23, 24, 25th.

Venus makes her flourish for this appearance during this month as she continues to appear higher each evening, to brighten and to… wane(!) in phase. Venus’ phases appear the opposite way from the Moon’s and, because she gets markedly nearer in the smaller phases, is brightest when less than gibbous. In her cycle, Venus’ apparent diameter expands and contracts 7-fold.

Sun is almost 4% nearer in January than in July; nearest on the 4th of this month.

Mars finally begins to appear slightly lower each evening and is taunted by Venus this month as she sidles up all month to within 5 degrees by month’s end – only to pull away again next month.

Jupiter has been steadily approaching Spica and has the first of a triple conjunction with the star on the 20th; the next being already in Feb as he begins his loop, and the third in September.

Saturn returns with the New Year, now coming into view in the morning for those with a clear ESE view at 6:AM. As the month progresses brightish Saturn can serve as a clue to search for an even brighter, but elusively lower Mercury. The Moon is proximate on the morning of the 24th.

Star Calendar Days:

1 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:22/16:39 (9h17m daylight)
Crescent Moon approaches gibbous Venus in SW as evening dims

2 Moon waxes between Mars and waning Venus, SW in evening

3 Latest sunrise for year (at 7:22 and a few seconds)
Mars now between Moon and Venus

4 Sun nearest Earth (perihelion) for the year

6 Epiphany – when the Magi arrive “where the Star stood”, 12th day of Christmas

7 Julian Calendar December 25th, Orthodox Christmas

8 Mercury stationary (wrt stars) to direct (eastwards) motion

10 Moon rising on the meridian of Summer solstice as Sun sets

11-12 Full Wolf Moon at 6:34AM

12 Venus at greatest angle from Sun for this appearance, 47 degrees

14 Julian Calendar January 1st 2770 AUC
Venus at last quarter phase (watch it subsequently wane, with binoculars)

14-15 Moon passes very near Regulus, seen in east at 9:PM

17 Venus crosses ecliptic northwards

19 Moon with Jupiter and Spica at 6:AM in south
Mercury at greatest elongation. Look SW at 6:15AM, with Saturn and Antares

20 Jupiter conjunct with Spica (subsequently appears east of the star by RA)

23 Moon above and to left of Antares, SE at 6:AM

24 Moon near Saturn, SE at 6:AM

25 Moon above bright Mercury, SE at 6:15 (if you’re lucky)

31 Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 7:08/17:12 (10h4m daylight)
Venus appears highest at sunset (40 degrees)
     Moon, Venus and Mars together in WSW after 6PM

Star Calendar – January 2016

Star Calendar

January 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon rises on the autumnal equinox point and beneath Jupiter as the New Year opens. On the 7th it accompanies Venus and Saturn in morning twilight in the ESE and then begins another week or so of moonless dark nights. On the evening of the 19th watch the Moon, high in the south, approach and then blot out Aldebaran – that expected to occur at 9:43PM.

Mercury stands (against the stars) on both sides of the Sun this month. He is stationary on the 5th, on the evening side of the Sun, in Capricorn; crosses the nearside of the Sun on the 14th, and stands again on the morning side of the Sun on the 25th. This appearance is rather poor – but the dates give a sense of how quickly Mercury can change position.

Venus continues to be the dominant “star of the east”. On Three King’s Day morning will occur a lovely morning group of crescent Moon, Venus and approaching Saturn; and the subsequent days too – until on the 10th she sinks below Saturn and begins in earnest to fall into to the morning glow.

Sun is nearest us for the year at this time. The relationship of the timing of the proximity cycle of the Sun (apsides) to the seasons is a strong component of the cycle of glaciation; is one that changes very slowly too. All of modern humanity’s historical records fall within the current warm cycle. Apsides proceed to the same conditions in about 111,000 years while the seasons are retrograde in 25,770 years. Other long cycles also abound.

Mars is culminating (south and highest) between 6 and 6:30 AM these days. He abandons the virgin on the 17th and recovers his balance in the scales. Mars is at 1st magnitude, slightly brighter than Spica to his right. He approaches 3rd magnitude (much dimmer) Zuben Elgenubi this month and will arrive, escorted by the Moon, on Feb. 1st.

Jupiter begins his loop this month, wandering back under the belly of Leo for an opposition in early March.

Saturn is now a definite morning presence, shining as brightly as Arcturus in the morning sky. As the year opens Saturn will be only half as high as Venus at 6:30 AM, but will ascend each morning as Venus slowly falls. The pair swap ascendency on the 9th and by the 31st Saturn will be prominent in the SSE between Antares and Sabik – though one might have to look a little earlier due to earlier sunrise!

Quadrantids are from the upper part of Bootes and their radiant is circumpolar. They may peak early this year so spending the night of 3rd-4th on a cot with feet facing north may reward.

Star Calendar Days:

1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:21/16:38 (9h17m daylight)

2      Sun is nearest for the year (perihelion), at .9833 of average distance

3      Martian solstice, summer for northern hemisphere

          Moon above Mars and Spica, SSE at 6-6:30AM

4      Quadrantid meteors early AM, from high East –

          – while looking, find Comet Catalina above Arcturus (with binoculars?)

5      Latest sunrise for the year, at 7:22 in Spring Valley

          Mercury stationary to retrograde

6      Moon above Venus and Saturn in morning twilight

7      Moon below Venus and Saturn, (red Antares to the right)

          Julian December 25, Orthodox Christmas

8      Jupiter is stationary, begins retrograde loop

9      Venus and Saturn very near, morning twilight in east

14      Julian/Roman New Year, begins 2769 AUC

          Mercury at inferior conjunction, crosses nearside of Sun

19      Moon occults Aldebaran, SSW at about 9:43PM

23      Full Wolf Moon at 8:46PM

25      Mercury stationary to direct (normal) motion

          Moon rises beside Regulus, east at 8:PM

28      Moon rises below Jupiter, east at 10:PM

30      Moon above Spica, SSW at 6:AM

31      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:08/17:12 (10h4m daylight)

Star Calendar – January 2015

Star Calendar

January 2015

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon follows a sinus path tipped 5 degrees to the ecliptic, which is itself tipped 23 ½ degrees to the celestial equator. The phase of these two tipping curves slowly changes, a cycle of phase-shift taking 18.6 years. When the Moon and Sun’s (vernal) ascending nodes coincide (additive phase relationship) the Moon soars above, and plunges below, the equator with a declination range of 57 degrees – as in 2005-6. This year, some 9 years later, the curves instead subtract and we have a minimum range of declination for the Moon; being just 36-37 degrees (compared to the Sun’s steady 47 degrees). This is also referred to as a “minor lunar standstill”. Moon’s descending node will correspond with vernal equinox in March this year. For 2015, the very highest declination the Moon will achieve will be only 18 2/3 degree; on Jan 3rd.

Mercury sweeps up to meet Venus on the 11th and may be looked for in the early evenings of the following week with reasonable expectation if one has a good horizon in the WSW. Already by the 21st Mercury will be hard to find despite a helpful but very thin, young Moon nearby. February’s morning apparition will be poor but May’s will be the best for the year.

Venus continues her magnificent evening ascent at a stately pace. She will be an evening feature until June.

Sun is nearest earth on the 3rd and its disk is actually larger. Total solar eclipses are rarer in January; more common in July when more distant/smaller. The Sun also progresses faster against the backdrop of stars at this time of year.

Mars has a year 684 Earth-days long (or 668 Mars-days) during which it also has seasons. Martian solstice occurs on our Jan 11th, with the Martian North turned away from the Sun. Oddly the northern Martian winter is longer than the southern – as interpreted by the outbreak of reflective frost and dry ice at the respective poles. Martian seasons are more dramatically modified by their relationship to its apsides (proximity to the Sun) than Earth’s.

Jupiter is moving retrograde, approaching its maximum brightness for an opposition in Cancer early next month.

Saturn continues to dominate the SE before sunrise. The Moon will again pass very near on the 16th. Continue reading