you follow the curve formed by the handle of the Big Dipper,
about five times the distance between Mizar and Alkaid, it will
lead you to a very bright star, Arcturus. If you watch it rise on
New Year’s morning, you might be able to see the Catalina Comet.
of my sources say Catalina will reach a magnitude of only +6, which
means you’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view it. Other
sources say it will reach a magnitude of +4.2. If that’s the
case, you might be able to see Catalina with the naked eye!
Catalina will be in the night skies all of January. It will reach
its closest approach to Earth on Jan. 17. On that night, it
will appear to be in the proximity of Mizar and Alkaid (in
the handle of the Big Dipper). At a distance of 110 million
kilometers and a visual magnitude of +5, it should be a great target
for night viewing.
Neptune and Uranus will be in the western skies in the evening.
Look for Mercury near the western horizon between 5:30 and 6: 20
p.m. It begins the month setting at 6:30 p.m. and gets lower in
the skies every evening. By Jan. 12, it will be setting at 5:30
p.m., making it difficult to spot. Neptune will begin the month
fairly high in the western part of the night skies. It will set
about 9:30 p.m. Uranus will begin the month almost directly
overhead on the Ecliptic.
will begin the month rising in the east at 10:40 p.m. It will be
followed by Mars at 1:30 a.m., Venus at 4:20 a.m., and Saturn at 4:55
the November column, I included a picture that featured M81 and M82
together in the same image. Here are close-ups of the two
galaxies I took on Dec. 15. Both are about 12 million light years
Last Quarter: Jan. 2
New Moon: Jan. 9
First Quarter: Jan. 16
Full Moon: Jan. 23
Last Quarter: Jan. 31
"ecliptic" is the path the sun appears to take around the Earth.
The planets all appear to stay close to this same path through the
Lebing is a retired computer scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey
in Washington, D.C. He has visited Hatteras Island since the
mid-1970s. He and his wife, Karen, have owned property here for several
years and moved to their home in Waves full-time in 2013.
Astronomy is a subject that Gerry says he has always been interested in
and one that he pursues seriously -- he's built an small observatory
next to his house. You can send him questions about the night sky
through e-mail, [email protected].)