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Saturday 21 January 2017  •   22 Rowan Moon 2017 (night)

Viewing the night sky in Rowan Moon 2017

30 December 2016 - 27 January 2017

Map of night sky at full moon: 12 January, 11:34 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Rowan Moon 2017

Venus is the bright evening planet. On 2 Jan, see the crescent moon between it and the fainter Mars. Venus gets brighter and more prominent during the month, reaching 47.14°E of the sun on 12 Jan, but then only getting brighter as it swings back in towards Earth. On 1 Jan, Mars passes just 1.2 minutes of arc south of Neptune, best seen (through a telescope) from the Pacific side of Earth at around 06:50 UTC. That evening, as seen from Europe, they will still be less than half a degree apart. As seen from the central Pacific, the moon occults Neptune and Mars on 3 Jan UTC. From Honolulu, the moon occults Neptune from 18:38 to 19:46 on 2 Jan (3 Jan, 04:38 to 05:46 UTC), and from Wake Island, the moon occults Mars from 19:23 to 20:43 on 3 Jan (07:23 to 08:43 UTC). On 12 January, Venus passes 0.4°N of Neptune.

Mercury ventures out into the eastern morning sky this month, approaching the less bright Saturn, but falling back into the sunrise before it can reach it. On 19 January, it gets to 24.13°W of the sun. Neither of Earth’s hemispheres has a great view of the elusive planet, but at least we have Saturn about 12° further out from the sun to guide us. The old moon is near Saturn on the morning of 24 Jan, and Mercury on the morning of the 25th.

Jupiter rises around midnight and shines brightly in the morning sky, gradually heading eastwards in the constellation Virgo, and gradually brightening as Earth moves nearer to it. The moon passes north of Jupiter on 19 Jan.

Look out for the Quarantid meteors on the night of 3/4 Jan, and especially in the early hours.

The month ahead: Ash Moon 2017

28 January - 26 February 2017

Map of night sky at full moon: 11 February, 00:33 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Ash Moon 2017

Venus becomes brighter and brighter in the evening sky, as it moves closer to Earth on its journey around this side of the sun. This brightest of planets also necessarily draws gradually closer to the sunset. Mars, now moving towards the far side of the sun, is nearby in the evening sky as seen from Earth, though a lot fainter. On the evening of 31 Jan, the crescent moon is near both Venus and Mars. Venus draws a little closer to Mars until 2 Feb, when it starts moving towards the sunset faster than Mars, and draws away once more from the red planet. On 26 Feb, Mars passes half a degree north of Uranus. Pan south with your binoculars or telescope from the red planet to find the ice giant. Then have a look at Venus, and see it as a crescent, just three light minutes from Earth. Jupiter rises in the late evening and shines very brightly in Virgo for the rest of the night. It easily outshines the nearby bright star Spica. On 6 Feb, Jupiter starts heading back westwards through the stars, as the Earth “overtakes” it. The moon passes north of Jupiter on 15 Feb. As seen from Paris, London, Cardiff and Truro, the moon just grazes south of the bright red star Aldebaran at around 22:25 on 5 Feb. From Nantes in Brittany, the moon occults Aldebaran from 23:10 to 23:43 (22:10 to 22:43 UTC). Saturn rises three hours or so before the sun. The old crescent moon is nearby on 21 Feb. It crosses from Ophiuchus into Sagittarius on 23 Feb.

At full moon, on the night 10/11 Feb, there is a penumbral eclipse of the moon. This happens when no part of the moon falls wholly into shadow, but some areas experience a partial eclipse of the sun, and you may be able to see how it darkens the lunar surface.
The eclipse starts at 22:34 on 10 Feb and ends 02:53 on 11 Feb (UTC), but is hard to see except towards maximum eclipse at 00:44, when there will be quite a bit of darkening at the moon’s northern limb. It is visible in most of world, except Australia and almost all of the Pacific, though best seen in Europe, Africa, Western Asia, and the east of the Americas.

At dark moon on 26 Feb, there is an annular eclipse of the sun visible from South America and Africa. An annular eclipse is when the moon is relatively far from the observer, and appears smaller than the sun; a ring of sunlight can be seen all round it. The annular eclipse is visible in Puerto Aysén in the Aysén province of Chile at 10:36 (13:36 UTC), and 80km N of Comodoro Rivadavia in the Chubut province of Argentina at 10:42 (13:42 UTC). It crosses the South Atlantic, and reaches the coast of Angola, in the north of Namibe province at 17:26 (16:26 UTC); see it then Just south of Huambo in Angola at 17:29 (16:29 UTC), in the Parque Nacional de Cameia of eastern Angola at 17:31 (16:31 UTC), and just across into the border area of Congo and Zambia before sunset. A partial eclipse of the sun is visible from much of South America (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern Peru, all but the far north of Bolivia, Brazil south and east of the Amazon) and South and West Africa (south and east from the Casamance in Sénégal as far east as a line down through the middle of Chad, CAR, DR Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and all of South Africa), as well as most of Antactica. In Buenos Aires, 66% of the sun covered at 10:53 (13:53 UTC); in Cape Town, 41% of the sun covered at 18:00 (16:00 UTC).

William Morris
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