This is the California Nebula. It’s about 1800
light years away. Right now, it’s just about directly
overhead. The California Nebula has a visual magnitude of +5, but
it is extremely difficult to spot with the naked eye. I had to
enhance the image by increasing the saturation of the color and
brightness to make it easy to see the shape and structure of the object.
In January, the “Dog” follows the Hunter
Orion, the Hunter, will appear just after sunset
on January 1. About an hour and a half later, two bright stars
will rise above the Eastern horizon, Procyon and Sirius - the Dog
Sirius is the brighter of the two and
further to the south. (You can find Sirius by following the line formed
by Orion’s belt down towards the horizon.) The name Sirius means
“glowing” and it’s the brightest star in the night skies . Its
visual magnitude is -1.4! That means Jupiter, Venus and the moon are
are the only objects brighter than Sirius in the night skies. Sirius is
located in the constellation Canis Major (the Great Dog.) It’s about
8.7 light years away from us, making it the fifth closest star.
Procyon will rise just a little bit north of due
east. With a visual magnitude of +.34, it’s the eighth
brighest star in the night skies. Procyon is located in the
constellation Canis Minor, the Little Dog. You might notice that
Procyon rises a bit earlier than Sirius, the Dog Star. The name Procyon
means “before the dog.” Procyon is about 11.5 light years
Other things you can look for January 2018
Mercury will be visible in the southeast from the
January 1 until the 19th. Jupiter and Mars will be visible in the
eastern pre-dawn skies. Mars will start the month rising at 2:49
a.m. and Jupiter will follow at 3:01 a.m. Jupiter and Mars
will be in conjunction at 5:56 a.m. on January 7.
Saturn will start the month rising at 6:26 a.m.
The Sun rises at 7:11 a.m. and its light will probably obscure Saturn
until it is visible on January 9.
Neptune and Uranus will be in the evening skies for all of January.
The Quadrantids Meteor shower peaks the night of
the January 3. You can expect as many as 120 meteors per
hour. The shower will appear to originate below the Big
Dipper. Best viewing will be after midnight, but you might see
some activity earlier if the northern skies are clear.
1st Quarter is the 24th
Full Moon is the 01st
Last Quarter is the 8th
New Moon is the 16th
Blue Moon (2nd Full Moon) is the 31st
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]g.)