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The Ten Acre Observatory: Night Sky Report

 

January 2, 2020

Happy New Year! We hope that you all had a safe and joyous holiday season!

Other than those nights where the moon interfered with the viewing, there were a number of cloudless evenings in December that presented good observing — even several that were warm enough that you didn’t end up freezing your extremities. Hopefully this month will again give us some good viewing nights since there are a few things worth seeing!

The new year also brings with it the opportunity to attend a new series of lectures entitled “Science…the Cutting Edge” that will be presented at OU’s Sam Noble Museum of Natural History and will run from January through April and (following the summer break) resuming in September and going thru December. These programs will cover a variety of subjects and will be FREE and open to the public. A schedule of the first four lectures will appear at the end of this article

Highlights: Starting on the first, we have the moon at apogee (251,394 miles distance). The Moon is at First Quarter on the second. With the Moon setting shortly after midnight on the third, its brightness shouldn’t interfere with viewing as the Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks that night into the morning of the fourth.

On the fifth, Earth reaches Perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun this year) at a distance of 91.4 million miles. On the tenth, we have a Full Moon as Mars comes into superior conjunction. A triple event occurs on the 13th as Pluto and Saturn come into conjunction with the Sun as the Moon reaches perigee at 227,396 miles distance.

Mars passes to the north of the red super giant Antares (Alpha Scorpio) on the 16th. Third Quarter occurs on the 17th. The Moon passes to the north of Mars on the 20th and then to the south of Jupiter on the 22nd. New Moon occurs on the 24th.

Venus passes to the south of Neptune on the 27th followed on the 28th by the Moon passing to the south of first Neptune and then Venus. The Moon is again at apogee on the 29th at a distance of 251,899 miles. Then on the 31st we will see the Moon pass to the south of Uranus.

Comets: Comet PANSTARRS (C/2017 T2) will again be visible all month as it moves in a southwesterly direction through the constellation Perseus. It should be easy to locate with a small scope as it passes just to north of the Perseus Double Cluster Jan. 24-30. It should be bright enough to be visible through a 4 inch telescope (or bigger) from dark locations as it reaches a Magnitude of 10 – 9.

Planetary Report: Mercury is in Capricorn. Venus is moving through Capricorn into Aquarius. Mars has moved into Scorpio. Jupiter is in Sagittarius. Saturn is still along the eastern edge of Sagittarius with Uranus in the eastern edge of Pisces. Neptune is in Aquarius and Pluto is in the eastern area of Sagittarius.

Meteors: With the Moon setting around midnight, it shouldn’t be a factor in viewing the peak of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower during the evening of the third and continuing into the morning of the fourth with a projected peak rate of near 120 meteors per hour. This shower should radiate from around the southern edge of Ursa Major (the Big Dipper).

Astronomical Event Alert: Astronomers have noted the sudden dimming (by several magnitudes), over the last two weeks, of the Red Super Giant Star known as Betelgeuse (commonly pronounced: Beetlejuice) located at the top left of the Orion Constellation. Local astronomers/observers have confirmed that the star has indeed become noticeably dimmer. There are several possible causes with some in the astronomy community speculating that it is a temporary dimming as the star starts running low on fuel, while others say that it could be the prelude to it running out of fuel and going SUPER NOVA. The later would temporarily make it the brightest object in the sky, even outshining the Sun and being visible during daytime for a short time. With Betelgeuse being so large (1000 times the mass of our Sun), the timing and conditions at the time of the final collapse will determine the final result. Astronomers say that at a distance of 642+ light years, Betelgeuse going super nova should not affect Earth except for giving us a spectacular light show.

Dark Sky viewing starts the 15th and goes through the 26th.

Viewing Nights for the Odyssey Astronomy Club are Saturday the 18th and Saturday the 25th. As always, anyone is welcome to attend the viewing sessions, but it is requested that you call to let us know that you plan to attend and to get driving instructions.

Sam Noble Lectures:

Jan 30 – Earth Science Controversies – Dr. Kerry Magruder, OU

Feb 27 – Exploring the Dark Side of the Universe – Dr. Howard Baer, OU

Mar 24 – Assessing the Climate of Climate Change – Dr. Kevin Koesel

Apr 30 – A Conversation with Charles Darwin – Dr. Stan Rice (in character)

Note: A .pdf copy of the event poster is available upon request at the email address provided below.

For more information about Ten Acre Observatory, the Odyssey Astronomy Club or to make an appointment to come out for a visit, contact us at 405-899-4016 (leave a message) or email us at: orion2c@yahoo.com. A visit to the observatory and the use of our equipment and facilities is always FREE.

 

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