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Sky Report - January 2014


Bright Jupiter in Eastern Evening Sky nearby the bright winter stars, Full moon in Mid January

Seen all through January – The very planet Jupiter is seen in the East as it gets dark. Unlike the twinkling night stars, Jupiter shines with a steady light and is brighter than any night star. To the right of Jupiter is the star group Orion with his three star belt (equally bright and equally spaced). Above the belt is pinkish Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star nearing the end of its life. The bright star below his belt is white-blue Rigel, Orion's brightest star. Rigel's bluish tint tells us this is a star in its youth and consuming its fuel (hydrogen) at a rapid rate. Orion's belt points left and down to Sirius, the night's brightest star and the closest night star visible from the Tri-State area. Sirius is at a distance of 9 light years, so the light reaching us from this star left 9 years ago in 2005. (Our sun's light takes 500 seconds to reach Earth so we see our sun as it was about 8 minutes ago.) The bright star near the top of the sky is Capella, a yellow giant star that is 42 light years distance. The Big Dipper with its scoop upward can be seen low in the NNE. The Dipper's two top stars point left to the North Star, a modest star about half way between the northern horizon and the top of the sky. Higher than the North Star and to the left is Cassiopeia, resembling a stretched out letter 'M'.

Early January Sights – The moon swings from the morning to the evening side of the sun on January 1st. If you are lucky, you may see Venus briefly (try 5:45 p.m.) on January 2nd very low in the Southwest and beneath a very slender crescent moon. On January 4th, the Earth will be at its closest to the sun at a distance of 91.5 million miles. This minor change in the Earth-sun distance is overwhelmed by the Earth's northern hemisphere being tipped away from the sun, causing shorter days and a low sun altitude in mid day. The evening moon will appear half full on January 7th. Along the moon's left or straighter edge, the sun is rising, casting the craters and mountain ranges into sharp relief as viewed through telescopes. On the evening of January 11th, the gibbous moon will appear near the star Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus.

Mid January Sights – On January 11th, the planet Venus will pass North of the Sun and be lost in the sun's glare. Soon after midnight, the planet Mars rises and appears as a bright yellow star in the East. The planet Saturn is in Libra and appears at dawn, below and to the left of Mars. On January 14th, the moon will appear to the right of the bright planet Jupiter. On January 15th, the moon will be full on the western edge of Cancer.

Late January Sights – The planet Mercury can be seen briefly in the last week of January, shining low in the West Southwest dusk. On January 23rd, the waning moon passes by Mars and the star Spica in the morning sky. On January 24th, the moon appears half full in the southern dawn sky (like a reversed 'D'). On January 30th, the moon again passes North of the sun, going from the morning to the evening side of the sun.

Frostburg State's new technology center called the CCIT has most of its outer walls in place. The building will likely be opening in the spring of 2014. It features an auditorium called the Multi-Media Center or MLC, which includes a digital planetarium projector. There will be resumption of our Sunday Public Planetarium programs, featuring a review of the past week's weather, the current night sky sights and a half hour feature. Sunday Tours of the Science Discovery Center will also be available to the interested public.

By Dr. Bob Doyle

To contact Dr. Doyle, his mailing address is Planetarium, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD 21532 or by email at rdoyle@frostburg.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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