Celestial Spectacles To Enjoy This January
If your New Year resolution was to take up astronomy, or your Christmas present consisted of a brand new telescope, here’s what you can expect to see in January.
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January 4th: The Quadrantid Meteor Shower
January in astronomy kicks off with the Quadrantid meteor shower today, 4th January. Those in the US will likely get the best views at it peaks between 19:00-21:00. Those in the UK might not see a great deal as it will be early afternoon. Astronomers located close to the Mississippi River will have the best views and can expect to see between 60 and 120 meteors per hour during the peak period.
Magnesium burning up on entry to the Earth atmosphere should show as a blue streak in the sky and you should see the effects for a few hours either side of the peak. This particular meteor shower is expected to have originated in the Quadrans Muralis constellation and is the remnants of a meteor that broke up more than half a millennia ago; asteroid 2003 EH1.
January 12th: Venus Comes Into View
January 12th will see the point in which Venus will reach its furthest Eastern elongation. The planet will be 47.1 degrees away from the Sun and provide the best views of the month. If you run on UTC time, you should be able to spot Venus after the sun sets, providing you scan the sky to the west.
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January 17th: The Vesta Asteroid
The biggest and brightest asteroid on offer this month, Vesta, comes into view on the 17th of January. NASA say this one is pretty special and should well be worth a look. Locating the asteroid should not be too demanding, provided you have a decent telescope and look for Castor and Pollux; the twin stars of Gemini.
January 19th: Mercury Comes Into View
The 19th of January should provide our best opportunity to spot Mercury as the planet reaches its furthest elongation. The furthest elongation puts this planet at 24.1 degrees from our very own Sun. This should put it high in the Eastern sky before the sunrise using UTC time.