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This Week in the Sky-January 8-14, 2023

​January 8, 2023

Asteroid Pallas at Opposition (all night) On Sunday, January 8, the main belt asteroid designated (2) Pallas will reach opposition. On the nights near opposition, Pallas will rise at sunset and set at sunrise, and shine with a visual magnitude of 7.7. That’s within reach of binoculars and backyard telescopes - but wait until the asteroid has risen higher in late evening for the best view of it. On opposition night, Pallas will be situated in southern Canis Major, 3 degrees to the southwest of the bright star Adhara, and just one degree north of the medium-bright star Kappa Canis Majoris. On the following nights the asteroid will drive northwest.

January 9, 2023

​Capella and the Kids (all night) The constellation of Auriga (the Charioteer) is well-positioned for observing in the eastern sky during January evenings. It is dominated by the very bright (magnitude 0.05), yellow sun-like star Capella, nick-named the Goat Star. Several degrees south of Capella look for a narrow triangle of three dim stars known as the Kids – Almaaz, and Heodus I and II. The shape of Auriga resembles a rough ellipse, although the medium-bright star at its south end, named Elnath, is actually one of the horn-tip stars of Taurus, the Bull. The outer rim of our Milky Way galaxy passes directly through Auriga, so the constellation contains a number of excellent open star clusters. Messier list targets include M36, M37, and M38, all of which can be seen with naked eyes and binoculars under dark sky conditions. Additional, medium-bright clusters are NGC1893, 1907, 1778, 1857, and 1664, all of which shine brighter than magnitude 8.0.

January 10, 2023

Stellar Halo around Mirfak (evening) In mid-evening during January, the constellation of Perseus is positioned nearly overhead in the northern sky. This constellation’s location straddling the outer reaches of the Milky Way has filled it with rich star clusters. The largest of these surrounds the bright star Mirfak, or Alpha Persei. Melotte 20, also known as the Alpha Persei Moving Group and the Perseus OB3 Association, is a collection of about 100 young, massive, hot B and A-class stars spanning 3 degrees of the sky. The cluster can be seen with unaided eyes, and improves in binoculars. It is approximately 600 light years from the sun and is moving as a group. Mirfak is moving with them. This elderly yellow supergiant star has evolved out of its blue phase and is now fusing helium into carbon and oxygen in its core.

January 11, 2023

​Kemble’s Cascade (all night) Kemble’s Cascade, named for Canadian astronomer Father Lucian J. Kemble, is a gorgeous string of 9th and 10th magnitude stars located in the northerly constellation of Camelopardalis, the Giraffe. Look for the magnitude 4.95 star named HIP 18505 shining midway along the cascade’s 2.5 degree span. Any size of telescope will reveal more details. Some of its stars are blue-white, others are white and golden. Quite a few are pairs arranged at right angles to the main NW-SE cascade. Near the southeastern end of the cascade, look for the unrelated open cluster NGC 1502. Its core is dominated by the magnitude 6.9 stars of Struve 485, which are 17.7 arc-seconds apart. From a dark site, you may be able to see that magnitude 6.0 cluster with your unaided eyes.

January 12, 2023

​Mars Stands Still (all night) On Thursday, January 12, the bright reddish planet Mars will cease its westward motion through the stars of northern Taurus, ending a retrograde loop that began in late October. From this point on, Mars will ramp up its regular easterly prograde motion to the north of the bright reddish star Aldebaran, moving farther away from the nearby Pleiades star cluster (also designated Messier 45) each night.

January 13, 2023

The Lost Jewel of Orion’s Sword (all night) To the naked eye, a patch of brightness below the Orion Nebula defines the southern tip of Orion’s sword. The area is dominated by the bright, magnitude 2.75 star named Nair al Saif, and sometimes called Hatysa, Iota Orionis, and The Lost Jewel of Orion. Just 8 arc-minutes to the southwest of Nair al Saif are a pair of magnitude 4 stars designated HIP26199 and HIP26197. This duo is almost 3,000 light-years from the sun and they shine with an intense blue light indicative of their extreme surface temperatures. Astronomers estimate that those two stars are approximately 40,000 times as luminous as our sun. The entire area is surrounded by faint nebulosity. Use O-III or nebula filters to enhance the views.

January 14, 2023

​Third Quarter Moon The moon will reach its third quarter phase on Saturday, January 14 at 9:10 p.m. EST and 6:10 p.m. PST, which converts to 02:10 UT on Sunday. The moon will rise at about midnight local time, and then remain visible until late on Sunday morning in the southern sky. At third quarter, the moon is illuminated on its western side, towards the pre-dawn sun. Last quarter moons are positioned ahead of the Earth in our trip around the sun. About 3½ hours later, Earth will occupy that same location in space. The week of moonless evening skies that follow third quarter will be ideal for observing deep sky targets.


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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