Star Date – January 2015

by Craig Linde

Jupiter rises early enough so that it is visible high in the east before midnight and high in the south after midnight. The highlight of the month appears low in the southwest in the twilight sky just after sunset. Venus and Mercury form a strikingly close pair for the first two weeks of January. During the third week, Mercury sinks closer to the horizon before disappearing from view. Mars is located a little higher and to the upper left of this pair. Saturn is getting much higher in the morning twilight before sunrise, making it easier to spot. On the morning of the 16th, the old crescent moon is very close to Saturn. On the 21st, the young crescent forms a triangle with Mercury and Venus. The next evening, it is near Mars.

The winter sky is famous for its concentration of bright stars. This dazzling display leads to one aspect of the winter sky being overlooked, namely the Milky Way. The winter Milky Way runs from the southwestern horizon, straight overhead through zenith and down to the northeastern horizon. It is not as impressive as the summer Milky Way due to its fainter and smoother structure. When we see our home galaxy in the summertime, we are looking toward its dense center. During the winter, the night side of the Earth is facing in the opposite direction, toward this subtler region of the Milky Way. Most notable is the segment stretching high overhead from Cassiopeia through Perseus and Auriga. It contains a multitude of star clusters that can easily be spotted in binoculars. Located between Perseus and the “W” of Cassiopeia is the famous Double Cluster. It is actually a pair of adjacent star clusters that can be seen with the unaided eye as a soft fuzzy spot. Using binoculars, you can resolve the fuzz into two distinct objects. In a telescope, they form a spectacular sight.
-Craig Linde

Courtesy of the Marquette Astronomical Society,
For information about the club and the next meeting,visit our website.
A free monthly sky chart is available at

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