All five visible planets will appear above the horizon simultaneously after midnight from about the 20 of January to the 20 of February. Moreover, you can use the Moon to help guide them to this showcase of planets from 27 January to 6 February. These planets can be seen in the morning sky. The five visible planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The last time that all five visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) appeared in the same sky together was over 10 years ago, which was from 15 December 2004 to 15 January 2005.
The small planet Mercury is best seen from 7.10 am onwards and is in the constellation Sagittarius. The bright planet Venus is best seen from 6.10 am onwards and is as well in the constellation Sagittarius. The red planet Mars is best seen from 1.40 am onwards and is the constellation Libra. The giant planet Jupiter is best seen from 9.25 pm to 3.35 am and visible in the constellation Leo. The planet with the rings Saturn is best seen from 4.45 am onwards and in the constellation Ophiuchus.
It is Full Moon in the night from Saturday 23 to Sunday 24 January at 01.46 am. So it will be harder to see and watch fainter objects or deep sky. The Full Moon gives a lot of light! The comet Catalina is getting fainter and is visible from 6.20 pm onwards and is in the constellation Draco.
Wednesday 20 January
Today in 1930 Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin was born. Aldrin is an American astronaut who set a record for extravehicular activity and was the second man to set foot on the Moon. As a former US Airforce pilot in Korea, he was one of the third group of astronauts named by NASA in October 1963. On 11 November 1966, he launched in Gemini 12 with command pilot James Lovell on a 4 day flight, during which Aldrin established a new record for extravehicular activity (5.5 hours) outside the spacecraft. Aldrin was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 11 which was launched on 16 July 1969. This was the first manned lunar landing mission, and Aldrin was the second man to set foot on the Moon, following Neil Armstrong, on 20 July 1969, and spent 2.15 hours on the lunar surface.
An Iridium flare appears at 5.43 pm in the South at an altitude of 31° in the constellation of Cetus. Iridium flares are satellites which are visible with the naked eye. They move slowly in the sky and lit up brightly at the position and time given.
Time to get your telescope or binocular out and look at the giant planet Jupiter. At 0.43 am the Great Red Spot is in transit on Jupiter.
The red planet Mars gets its brightness to what we call magnitude +1. Have a look in the morning.
At 2.03 am the Moon is in maximum libration North. The lunar North Pole and Mare Frigoris are tipped into the Earth's view.
At 2.51 am the Jupiter Moon Io begins its eclipse. At 6.06 am the Jupiter Moon Io reappears from its occultation.
There is a very short appearance of the International Space Station (ISS) at 5.30 am. ISS appears in the South South East at an altitude of 20°. ISS disappears already at 5.33 am in the South East horizon. The International Space Station moves slowly in the night sky and is visible with the naked eye. Have a wave at Tim Peake while watching ISS!
Thursday 21 January
Today in 1979 the planet Neptune became the outermost planet as Pluto moved on its highly elliptical, tilted orbit closer to the Sun than Neptune. This relative arrangement of these heavenly bodies lasts about 20 years out of every 248 years. Pluto had not been discovered the previous time it happened, and on 24 August 2006 it was downgraded, no longer to known as a planet. On that day Neptune regained its title as the outermost planet, likely indefinitely, when a new scientific definition of the term “planet” was adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) meeting in Prague, Czech Republic. The IAU decides the official names of all celestial bodies. Because it was too small to dominate its neighbourhood, henceforth Pluto was to be known as a “minor planet,” like Ceres. Neptune was discovered on 23 September 1846.
A very bright Iridium flare appears at 7.06 pm in the South East at an altitude of 38° in the constellation Orion.
Jupiter time! Get your telescope out. At 10.58 pm the Jupiter Moon Europa ends its transit. At 0.10 am the Jupiter Moon Io begins its shadow; and at 1.08 am the Jupiter Moon Io begins its transit.
Look in the morning and try to find the planet Mercury. If you have a big and powerful telescope, the degraded planet Pluto is only 1.8° separated from Mercury.
Back to Jupiter. At 2.26 am the Jupiter Moon Io ends its shadow over Jupiter. At 3.22 am the Jupiter Moon Io ends its transit and at 6.30 am the Great Red Spot transits the giant planet.
ISS appears at 6.12 am in the South South West at 11° altitude and disappears already after 4 minutes in the South South East horizon at 6.16 am.
Friday 22 January
At 11.20 pm the Moon is close to the star called Lam Gem. The limb separation is only half a lunar diameter! The Moon is still bright with a Moon phase of 99%.
At 0.33 am the Jupiter Moon Io reappears from its occultation. At 2.06 am the Jupiter Moon Ganymede begins its eclipse. At 2.21 am the Great Red Spot transits the giant planet Jupiter. At 5.30 am the Jupiter Moon Ganymede ends its eclipse and at 6.03 am the Jupiter Moon Ganymede disappears from its occultation.
A nice challenge if you have an open and clear view on the horizon. ISS appears at 5.22 am in the South South East at 9° and disappears after 2 minutes at the horizon. And another challenge at nearly daylight: At 8.03 am a very bright Iridium flare appears in the East North East at 41° in the constellation Cygnus.
Saturday 23 January
Today in 1930 Clyde Tombaugh photographed the that time called planet Pluto, the only planet discovered in the 20th century, after a systematic search instigated by the predictions of other astronomers. Tombaugh was 24 years old when he made this discovery at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
The Moon is in maximum libration East at 12.31 pm. Mare Crisium limb is tipped into the Earth's view. Look later at night time.
A rather bright Iridium flare is visible at 7 pm in the South South East at an altitude of 39° in the constellation Taurus.
It is Full Moon at 1.45 am. This is the 2nd Northernmost Full Moon of the year. The former more Northern Full Moon was on Christmas day 25 December 2015. The next more Northern Full Moon is on 14 December 2016.
Sunday 24 January
Today in 1914 Sir David Gill, a Scottish watchmaker and astronomer, died. He designed the value of a helio meter. Born on 12th June 1843. He retired in 1906, for health reasons, and lived in London until he died of pneumonia. He observed the Transit of Venus in 1874.
A rather bright Iridium flare appears in the South South West at 5.28 pm at an altitude of 29° in the constellation Cetus. Another flare at the same time and at about the same position. Watch this double flare.
At 3.59 am the Great Red Spot transits the giant planet Jupiter.
Monday 25 January
Today it is Joseph Lagrange's 280th Birthday. He was born in 1736 and was a French mathematician and astronomer. He described the 3 points, later called Lagrange points. The "Gallica" site of the French national library has the paper by Lagrange "Essai sur le problème des trois corps" available.
The Moon is close to the star Subra in the constellation Leo at 7.25 pm. The limb separation less than 4 lunar diameters. The altitude is only 6° so look for a clear horizon. The Moon phase is 97%.
At 11.51 pm the Great Red Spot transits the giant planet Jupiter.
At 5.25 am the Moon is close to the star called 31 Leo. The limb separation is only 2 Lunar diameters. In the US the bright star Regulus is close to the Moon at 5.10 am with only 2.5° separation.
Tuesday 26 January
At 8.20 pm the Moon is close to the star called Rho Leo. The limb separation is less than 6 lunar diameters.
The Jupiter Moon Ganymede ends its transit at 10.52 pm. At 2.32 am the Jupiter Moon Europa begins its eclipse and at 5.37 am the Great Red Spot transits the giant planet.
At 7.29 am a rather bright Iridium flare appears in the East North East at an altitude of 34° in the constellation Cygnus.
Wednesday 27 January
A very bright Iridium flare appears at 5.19 pm in the South South West at an altitude of 26° in the constellation Cetus. Iridium are satellites orbiting around the Earth. They are visible with the naked eye in the night sky as a moving star. At certain times and positions Iridium flares lit up and get bright. A second Iridium flare appears at 6.45 pm in the South South East at an altitude of 41° in the constellation Taurus.
At nearly midnight, the Moon is at Ascending Node. After midnight, at 01.14 am the giant planet Jupiter is only 1.4° North of the Moon. This is about 3 lunar diameters. Jupiter has been visible in morning sky over the past few months, but is rising earlier by each day. Jupiter will be at its best visibility of the year on 9th of March, when it will be easily visible throughout the entire night. The altitude of the close encounter with the Moon is 19° and the Moon phase is 86%.
Watch Jupiter and its 4 bright Moons with a binocular or small telescope. You will be able to see some Jovian Moons movements. At 0.08 am the Jupiter Moon Callisto begins its transit. At 1.29 am the Great Red Spot will transit the giant planet Jupiter. At 1.50 am the Jupiter Moon Callisto ends its transit and at 4.44 am the Jupiter Moon Io begins its eclipse.
The Moon is close to the star called Zavijah in the constellation Virgo at 6.50 am. The limb separation is just over 3 lunar diameters. The height of the Moon is then 24° and the Moon phase is 83%. Watch this before twilight if you can.
From now onwards, the constellation Cancer the Crab is the faintest of twelve signs of the zodiac and is a challenge for anyone living in the suburbs of Ashbourne town. It can be found between Gemini, the Twins and Leo, the Lion, in the middle of a triangle formed by the stars Procyon, Castor and Regulus. Cancer is also the only constellation where a deep sky object is actually brighter than almost all the stars. In this case, the star cluster in question is M44, the Beehive or Praesepe star cluster, which can be found in the middle of the crab and may be seen with just your eyes under reasonably dark skies. It is a large cluster, only 577 light years away, and one of the few that appears better in binoculars than through a telescope. Have a go!
Get in touch with me via www.patrickpoitevin.weebly.com if you need more information.