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  • Chris Baker

What's Up? - JANUARY 2024

Each month I highlight a few objects you can spot in the night sky without the need for optical equipment.


This month a number of planets put on fine displays and there's a chance to see the elusive planet Mercury.


Also this month it's time to spot the constellation of Taurus the Bull.

PLANETS


Mercury

Mercury is always difficult to spot as it's close to the sun. However, this month it rises before the sun, up to 100 minutes early in the month. By the 17th it is 90 minutes so the earlier in the month you try the better. Remember never use optical equipment in the direction of the sun. It will be low down in the southeast so you'll need a good low horizon


.Mercury in the south east around 7am early in the month

Courtesy of Stellarium



Venus

Venus is a bright morning object that you can't miss if you're up early! It rises 3 hours before sunrise early in the month and about 1.5 hours by the end.

There are some nice sights during January including around the 8th, 9th and 10th when Venus is close to a crescent moon.


Venus close to a crescent Moon in the south east 7am on the 8th January

Courtesy of Stellarium


Jupiter

Jupiter puts on a dazzling display all month! Simply look south east early evening onwards and the bright object is Jupiter. It also appears near the star cluster The Seven Sisters, also known as Pleiades. Also you'll be able to see the constellation Orion.

If you do have binoculars try holding them steady against a wall and seeing if you can spot a number of Jupiter's moons. You may be lucky enough to spot up to four. Let me know if you manage this for the first time.

Jupiter mid month around 9pm - looking south

Courtesy of Stellarium



Saturn

Beautiful Saturn is losing its battle with the twilight although you may be able to spot it in the first few days on the month in the southwest as darkness falls.


Saturn early in the month looking south west early evening

Courtesy of Stellarium



Mars

Mars won't be visible until next spring.



Constellation of the month - Taurus the Bull


This month see if you can spot the constellation Taurus the Bull. You'll spot it by looking SOUTH between Jupiter and Orion and close to the star cluster Pleiades.


Taurus, the bull, is one of the prominent constellations in the night sky, situated along the celestial equator. It's recognized for its V-shaped cluster of stars known as the Hyades, representing the bull's head, and the red giant star Aldebaran, marking the bull's fiery eye.


In Greek mythology, Taurus embodies various tales, most notably as Zeus disguised as a bull to abduct Europa, the Phoenician princess. The constellation is often depicted as a charging bull in different cultures, symbolizing strength, determination, and fertility.


The Hyades, located around 153 light-years away, form a distinctive "V" shape and serve as a guide to finding Aldebaran, although it's not part of the cluster itself. Aldebaran, approximately 65 light-years distant, is an orange giant star and appears as the brightest point in Taurus.


The V shape appears on its side with the bright orange red star Aldebaran

Courtesy of Stellarium


Note the V shape and bright red star



Enjoy the night sky this month and let me know about your observations.


Thank you for reading this blog and do let me know if there is anything you would like me to add to my Newsletter each month.

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