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Friday 30 January 2015  •   10 Ash Moon 2015

Viewing the night sky in Ash Moon 2015

21 January - 18 February 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 3 February, 23:09 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Ash Moon 2015

Jupiter comes to opposition on 6 Feb; at its nearest to Earth it is 650 million kilometres, or 36 light minutes away. It shines very brightly all night. The full moon is near it on 4 Feb.

The inner planets, Venus and Mercury, always pass from the morning sky towards the evening on the far side of the sun, and from evening to morning on this side, the latter always more quickly and brightly. This month, Venus continues to rise slowly into the evening, and Mercury falls quickly into the sunset, but you might just see it below Venus in the first few days of the month, especially if you are looking from the northern hemisphere.

Mars, and all the outer planets, pass slowly from evening to morning sky (on the far side of the sun, of course), and carry on, past the full moon position, and round into the evening. Mars is now slipping into the evening twilight but, at the beginning of the month, it is still above Venus and Mercury.

The moon goes the other way round, and arrives in the evening sky as the new crescent moon, before making its way into the night sky, and opposite the sun, at full moon, and carrying on into the morning sky until, when it is an old crescent, it rises only just before the sun. On 22 Jan, the thin crescent is in the evening sky, below Mars and above Venus. On 23 Jan, the moon is above Mars. On 25 Jan, the moon passes near Uranus, and passes in front of it, or occults it, as seen from NE Africa and the Middle East in daylight, and North India, Central Asia and Western China after dark.

By the end of the month, Mercury is climbing rapidly into the morning sky, a great view from the southern hemisphere. From the northern hemisphere, it is low in the SE; on the morning of 17 Feb, look for it below the old moon. Saturn is in the morning sky, in the north of Scorpius. The moon is to its north on the morning of 13 Feb.

Venus is less than a degree south of Neptune on 1 Feb.

The space mission Dawn is, at the time of writing, due to arrive in orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres in February.

The month ahead: Alder Moon 2015

19 February - 20 March 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 5 March, 18:06 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Alder Moon 2015

There is a total eclipse of the sun at dark moon on 20 March, the day of the equinox. The total shadow of the sun falls to Earth in the North Atlantic, south of Greenland, and swings round over Rockall, through the Faroe Islands and up to Svalbard before finishing at the North Pole, where the sun is on the horizon at the start of the summer day. At Rockall, the total eclipse lasts about two minutes from 09:30 to 09:31; in Tórshavn, in the Faroes, it lasts from 09:41 to 09:42 UT; in Longyearbyen, in Svalbard, from 11:11 to 11:12 (10:11 to 10:12 UT); at the North Pole from about 10:16 to 10:18 UT. As seen from Tórshavn, the partial eclipse starts at 08:38 and finishes at 10:48. A partial eclipse is visible from Europe, North & West Africa (except the Guinea Coast) and parts of western Asia. In most of Europe, the further north-west you are, the better.

Seyðisfjörður 99.5% of the sun covered at 09:43 UT
Reykjavik 97.7% of the sun covered at 09:37 UT
Leknes, Lofoten Islands, 96.3% at 11:05 (10:05 UT)
Tromsø 95% at 11:09 (10:09 UT)
Bergen 92.5% at 10:50 (09:50 UT)
Oslo 88.5% at 10:54 (09:54 UT)
Lerwick 96.8% at 09:43 UT
Esha Ness, Shetland, 97.4% at 09:44 UT
Kirkwall 96.5% at 09:40 UT
Cape Wrath 97.4% at 09:38 UT
Stornoway / Steòrnabhagh 97.7% at 09:36 UT
Callanish / Calanais 97.8% at 09:36 UT
St Kilda 97.9% at 09:34 UT
Hogha Gearraidh, North Uist 97.6% 09:34 UT
Inverness 95.7% at 09:37 UT
Edinburgh 93.1% at 09:35 UT
Glasgow 93.7% at 09:34 UT
Belfast 93.1% at 09:31 UT
Derry/Londonderry 94.4% at 09:31 UT
Malin Head, Co Donegal 95.0% at 09:31 UT
Toraigh / Tory Island, Co Donegal 95.3% at 09:30 UT
Galway 93.2% at 09:26 UT
Cork 90.9% at 09:24 UT
Dublin 91.6% at 09:29 UT
Holyhead 90.5% at 09:30 UT
Cardiff 86.7% at 09:28 UT
Truro 86.0% at 09:25 UT
Manchester 89.1% at 09:32 UT
London 84.4% at 09:31 UT
Berlin 74% at 10:48 (09:48 UT)
Stockholm 82.0% at 11:01 (10:01 UT)
Warsaw 66% at 10:59 (09:59 UT)
Moscow 58% at 14:20 (10:20 UT)
Paris 77% at 10:34 (09:34 UT)
Brest 82.4% at 10:22 (09:22 UT)
A Coruña 76% at 10:10 (09:10 UT)
Lisbon 67% at 09:02 UT
Ponta Delgada 72% at 07:49 (08:49 UT)
Las Palmas 45% at 08:40 UT
Dakar 12% at 08:20 UT
Rome 54% at 10:34 (09:34 UT)
Athens 31% at 11:48 (09:48 UT)
Cairo 6% at 11:52 (09:52 UT)
Tehran 0.8% at 14:08 (10:38 UT)

Jupiter is still very bright in the evening and night sky. The moon is nearby on 3 March.

Venus is bright in the evening sky, with the dimmer Mars nearby. On the evening of 21 February, Venus is less than half a degree south of Mars. The new crescent moon is just a bit further out from the sunset, and is very close to Uranus, which you can see easily through binoculars. The moon occults Uranus as seen from Mexico, the USA and eastern Canada, after dark for the more eastern parts. As seen from New York, the moon covers Uranus at 17:53 (22:53 UT) on 21 February, about twenty minutes after sunset. Uranus re-emerges at 18:54 (23:54 UT).

On 4 March, Venus passes just five minutes of arc north of Uranus, a great opportunity to see Uranus, and a wonderful view through binoculars, where you may also be able to pick out Venus’ current gibbous phase. Mars is about five degrees in towards the sunset. Mars passes 16 minutes north of Uranus on 11 March.

Mercury reaches 26.8°W of the sun on 24 February in the morning sky: an especially good view from the southern hemisphere, where it will be visible in the E/ESE for a few weeks either side of that date.

Saturn is in the morning sky, rising an hour or two after midnight, to the north of the front end of Scorpius. The moon is nearby on the morning of 12 March.

William Morris
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