The sky this week from December 31 to January 7
Wednesday 5 January
The Moon passes 4 ° south of Jupiter at 7 p.m. EST tonight. Now in the constellation Aquarius, our satellite is about 14% illuminated and features of its eastern limb (west of the sky) are visible. The most important is the circular Mare Crisium (sea of crises). Just above is the large Cleomedes crater, while further south on the lunar face is Langrenus, which sits at the eastern end of the Mare Fecunditatis (Sea of Fertility).
If you have a lunar map handy, you will notice that Mare Crisium appears further south than on your reference. This is because of the libration, which makes the Moon seem to be “nodding” up and down from month to month.
Sunset: 4:49 p.m.
Moonrise: 10:00 AM
Moon setting: 8:22 p.m.
Moon phase: Wax Crescent (12%)
Thursday January 6
Night owls can experience a breathtaking view in Gemini the Twins tonight. Located within 2.5 ° south-southeast of magnitude 3.5 Wasat (Delta [δ] Geminorum) is NGC 2932, also called the Leo Nebula. This object is a planetary nebula created by a dying Sun-like star. As these stars age, they swell their outer layers, which then light up when photons from the stellar remnant still shining in the middle hit them.
The Leo Nebula is about magnitude 9 and stretches 15 “across the sky. It is best seen with a telescope and the larger the opening, the more detail you will see. The white dwarf in the center of the nebula is magnitude 10, which makes it relatively easy to spot.It is surrounded by two shells of gas – a smaller, denser, and closer to the star, and a second which is weaker, larger, and more The inner shell creates the lion’s head of the nebula’s namesake, while the gas filaments forming the outer shell are its mane.
Sunset: 4:50 p.m.
Moon setting: 9:33 p.m.
Moon phase: Wax Crescent (21%)
friday january 7
The Moon passes 4 ° south of Neptune at 5 a.m. EST. Although not visible at the time, the couple can be captured in the evening sky, where they are seated at 7 ° to each other an hour after sunset. Neptune, which requires binoculars or a small telescope to observe it, is just under 19 ° east-northeast of Jupiter. The farthest planet in the solar system is currently about 3.3 ° northeast of magnitude 4 Phi (ϕ) Aquarii. During the month, it will slowly move away from the star, ending in January at about 4 ° of this star.
Mercury reaches the Sun’s greatest eastern aspect ratio today at 6 a.m. EST, when it is 19 ° from our star. It now shines at a magnitude of -0.5 and is still visible in the evening planetary alignment to the west, even though Venus disappeared tomorrow for its lower conjunction with the Sun. As the sun sets, Mercury is now 14 ° elevation in Capricorn, just under 6 ° west-southwest of Saturn. Keep an eye out for this region as it darkens to see nearby bright stars appear in the background: Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus, Altair in Aquila, and Diphda in Cetus. Further above the horizon, at about 65 ° elevation an hour after sunset, is the Pegasus Square, taken from Markab, Algenib, Alpheratz and Scheat.
Sunset: 4:51 p.m.
Moon setting: 22:39
Moon phase: Wax Crescent (30%)