What’s Up for January 2018? The new year’s first meteor shower fizzles, Mars meets Jupiter in the morning sky, and month-end Oak Bay will enjoy a total lunar eclipse.
Most meteor showers radiate from recognizable constellations like the Leonids, Geminids and Orionids.
But the Quadrantids are meteors that appear to radiate from the location of the former Quadrans Muralis constellation an area that’s now part of the constellation Boötes.
The Quadrantids peak lasts for just a few hours, and sadly, this year their timing coincides with a very bright nearly full moon that will wash out most of the meteors.
Throughout the month, you might see a few Anthelion meteors radiating from Gemini, Cancer or Leo. “Anthelion” meteor showers are variable, weakly-active minor showers.
Surprisingly, you can look in any direction to see all the meteor showers. When you see one of these meteors, hold up a shoestring along the path it followed. The shoestring will lead you back to the constellation containing the meteor’s radiant point. All the meteors radiate from a single point in the sky.
On the morning of Jan. 6 look in the south-southeast sky over Seattle, 45 minutes before sunrise, to see Jupiter and fainter Mars almost as close as last month’s Jupiter and Venus close pairing. Mars is only 1/6th the apparent diameter of Jupiter, but the two offer a great binocular and telescopic view with a pretty colour contrast. They remain in each other’s neighbourhood from Jan. 5 to 8, 2018.
Two stellar occultations occur this month too. An occultation occurs whenever the moon (or other celestial object) passes in front of another celestial object such as a star, asteroid or planet. Leo’s white Regulus is occulted by the moon on January 4 and 5, visible from Southeast Alaska to the Maritime provinces of Canada. Taurus’s red star Aldebaran will be covered by the moon on Jan. 27, visible from Alaska, and our Great Salish Sea Bioregion – i.e. the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the USA.
Finally, to end the month, a great total lunar eclipse favours the Western US, Alaska and Hawaii and British Columbia on Jan. 31. Australia and the Pacific Ocean are also well placed to see a major portion of the eclipse—if not all of it. There will be one more lunar eclipse this year, but it will be visible only from central Africa and central Asia.
There are wonderful websites now on the Internet to help everyone understand and see (to help you get the right dates and times).
Total lunar eclipse, in Oak Bay begins Jan. 31, 2018 at 2:51 a.m., maximizes at 5:29 a.m. 1.32 magnitude and ends at 7:50 a.m.
As a last topic I’d like again to encourage you to re-explore the Smartphone apps. Now in 2017 we have many great apps which instantly bring the night sky alive.
You can find out about all of NASA’s missions at www.NASA.gov And you can find out more about the eclipse, including eclipse safety at eclipse2017.nasa.gov
Dark Skies to all friends of Cattle Point Star Park.
Summary by Bill Smith is from the transcript of “What’s Up in January 2018” by NASA announcer and astronomer Jane Houston Jones with specific permission for localization to Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park and the Oak Bay News.