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This Week in the Sky-January 22-28, 2023

January 22, 2023

Venus Kisses Saturn (after sunset) On the evenings surrounding Sunday, January 22, the brilliant planet Venus will climb past 75 times fainter Saturn in a very close conjunction. The pair will shine above the west-southwestern horizon for an hour after sunset. The two planets will be binoculars-close from Friday to Tuesday and will share the view in a backyard telescope from Saturday to Monday. At their closest approach on Sunday, Saturn will be positioned just 20 arc-minutes to the north-northwest. Wait until the sun has completely set before using binoculars or telescopes to view them. Observers at southerly latitudes might glimpse the very slim crescent of the young moon nearly a fist’s width below the two planets.

January 23, 2023

Crescent Moon with Venus and Saturn (after sunset) On Monday, January 23, the slender crescent of the young moon will join the Venus-Saturn conjunction – setting up a wonderful widefield photo opportunity in the west-southwestern sky in early evening. The moon, which will be positioned 8 degrees east of the two planets, may exhibit Earthshine. Sometimes called the Ashen Glow or the Old Moon in the New Moon’s Arms, the phenomenon is visible within a day or two of new moon, when sunlight reflected off Earth and back toward the moon, slightly brightens the unlit portion of the moon’s Earth-facing hemisphere.

​Uranus Pumps the Brakes (evening) On Monday, January 23, the motion of the distant, blue-green planet Uranus through the background stars of southern Aries will slow to a stop - completing a westward retrograde loop that it began in late August. After today, the planet will begin to creep eastward again. At magnitude +5.73, Uranus can be seen in binoculars and backyard telescopes, and even with unaided eyes under dark skies. Tonight the planet’s small, blue-green dot will be shining 12.5 degrees southeast of Aries’ brightest star Hamal - on the line connecting Hamal to Omicron Tauri.

January 24, 2023

Crescent Moon Passes Neptune and Vesta (evening) On Tuesday evening, January 24, the easterly orbital motion of the waxing crescent moon will carry it towards Neptune and the large asteroid Vesta. In the Americas, the moon will set while it is still about 6 degrees below (or celestial southwest) of them. Observers across the International Date Line in eastern Asia, New Zealand, and Australia can see the moon posing between them on Wednesday evening, when magnitude 7.9 Neptune will be located 1.6 degrees below the moon and magnitude 8 Vesta will shine several degrees to the moon’s upper left.

January 25, 2023

Waxing Moon Meets Jupiter and Juno (evening) The moon will continue its trip past the planets on Wednesday evening, January 25. Tonight the 23%-illuminated crescent moon will dance several finger widths to the south-southwest of very bright Jupiter, close enough for them to share the field of view in binoculars. Sky-watchers in westerly time zones will see the pair closer together before they drop below the rooftops in mid-evening. The relatively faint, magnitude 9.6 asteroid Juno will be positioned 6.5 degrees to the southeast of Jupiter all week.

January 26, 2023

The Hyades Cluster (all night) Located only about 150 light years away from the sun, Taurus’ triangular face is actually one of the nearest open star clusters to us. It is commonly called The Hyades, named for the five daughters of Atlas in Greek mythology. It also has the designations Melotte 25 and Caldwell 41. The cluster contains several hundred stars, with a half-dozen or so readily seen under moonless suburban skies, many as close pairs. It’s a superb target to view in binoculars. The five brightest members, all naked-eye stars, are within a few light years of one another. The cluster’s stars likely formed together about 625 million years ago. The bright orange star Aldebaran, at the southeastern vertex of the Hyades, is actually not part of the cluster. It is less than half as far away! On late January evenings, the Hyades are very high in the southern sky.

January 27, 2023

​Gemini’s Shoebuckle Cluster (all night) On January evenings, the stars of Gemini are climbing the eastern sky to the east of Orion. The large and bright open star cluster known as Messier 35, NGC 2168, and the Shoe-Buckle Cluster sits just north of the bright toe-stars Tejat Posterior (Mu Gem), Propus (Eta Gem), and 1 Gem. The cluster’s loose collection of stars are scattered over nearly half a degree, with the smaller, fainter, and richer cluster NGC 2158 on its western edge. M35 is visible with unaided eyes in a very dark sky, and looks terrific in binoculars and widefield telescope eyepieces.

January 28, 2023

​Half-moon Buzzes Uranus (late night) On Saturday evening, January 28 in the Americas, the slightly gibbous moon will shine about 2 degrees to the west of the magnitude 5.7 planet Uranus. The moon’s eastward orbital motion will carry Luna closely past Uranus during the night, eventually allowing them to share the view in a backyard telescope. Observers in Alaska, far northern Canada, Svalbard, and Greenland can see the moon occult Uranus starting around 04:30 UT on January 29. Use an app like Starry Night to determine the start and end times for the occultation where you live.

​First Quarter Moon When the moon completes the first quarter of its orbit around Earth at 10:19 a.m. EST (or 15:19 UT) on Saturday, January 28, the relative positions of the Earth, sun, and moon will cause us to see it half-illuminated - on its eastern side. At first quarter, the moon always rises around mid-day and sets around midnight, so it is visible in both the afternoon daytime sky and during evening. The evenings surrounding first quarter are the best for seeing the lunar terrain when it is dramatically lit by low-angled sunlight.


The information presented here is taken from my personal copy of Starry Night 8 Pro Plus, all rights belong to Starry Night Education/Simulation Curriculum.

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