By Duncan Lunan
The Moon will be New on January 6th and Full on January 21st, a ‘Supermoon’ when the Moon is Full at its closest to Earth. At 3.34 a.m. the Moon will enter the Earth’s shadow, and the eclipse will be total between 4.41 a.m.and 5.43 a.m..China’s Chang’e 4 probe landed on the Farside of the Moon on January 3rd, the first time it’s been done, and the landing site is Von Kármán crater, which has been a site of particular scientific interest since the Apollo surveys in the early 1970s.
The planet Mercury is too near the Sun to be visible in January, at superior conjunction on the 30th.
Venus is bright in the morning sky, rising at 4.30 a.m. and passing from Libra, through Scorpius into Ophiucus, at maximum west elongation on January 6th. On the morning of January 22nd Venus passes above Jupiter and the waning crescent Moon is near them on the 30th and 31st.
Mars remains in Pisces, setting around 11.30 p.m., growing fainter. The Moon is near Mars on January 12th.
Jupiter is in the morning sky in Ophiucus, near Antares in Scorpius, rising at 6 a.m.. Jupiter is near Venus on January 22nd, and near the waning Moon on January 30th.
Saturn in Sagittarius is not visible for most of January, after conjunction with the Sun on January 2nd, but rises at 7 a.m. at the end of the month.
Uranus is in Pisces, to upper left of Mars, setting around 1 a.m..
Neptune in Aquarius sets about 9 p.m..
In a big week for NASA, on December 31st the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft entered orbit around the asteroid Bennu, from which it will attempt to return samples to Earth. On January 1st the New Horizons spacecraft, which passed Pluto and its moons in 2015, flew by the Kuiper Belt asteroid Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever visited. Although the asteroid is only 30 km in diameter, it has turned out to be a double object and may well produce major surprises. New Horizons is travelling towards the centre of the Milky Way, and it’s now thought that it may remain operational till the 2030s and perhaps reach the edge of the Solar System like the Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. As of November 5th, 2018, when Voyager 2 left the boundary layer, both Voyagers are at last in interstellar space.
Meetings of the Astronomers of the Future Club will resume on Thursday January 31st at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG, 7.15 to 9 p.m.. The guest speaker has still be be announced: for details contact Club Treasurer Duncan Lunan on 07986-065437..
“Starfield, science fiction by Scottish writers”, edited by Duncan Lunan, is available from the publishers at https://www.shorelineofinfinity.com/product/starfield. Duncan’s recent books “Children from the Sky”, “The Stones and the Stars”, “Incoming Asteroid!” and “The Elements of Time” are available from the publishers, on Amazon or through booksellers; details are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com