On Jan. 24, a waxing young moon begins to ascend toward Venus in the western heavens. The lunar crescent sneaks closer to alluring Venus on Jan. 25, and by the evening of Jan. 26, the moon has passed by our neighbor planet.
Like a 1950s teenager at a diner, Jupiter loiters in the east-southeast sky at dusk, in the Aries constellation. It’s a negative second magnitude (very bright) object. The waxing gibbous moon approaches this large planet Sunday and snuggles closer Monday evening. By Tuesday, the moon has passed Jupiter, but have no fear, we get an “instant replay” from Jan. 28-31.
Bright enough to see from the light-polluted Washington area, Mars and Saturn, both zero magnitude objects, become the New Year’s late-night revelers. The reddish Mars rises just before midnight now in the east. A few hours later, at 1:30 a.m., the ringed Saturn ascends the east-southeast. By late January, both planets loiter in the Virgo constellation, as Mars will rise about 9 p.m. and Saturn appears just before midnight.
Find fleet Mercury now before sunrise in the southeast, in the constellation Ophiuchus, hugging the horizon.
With hot coffee, toast the Baby 2012 by viewing the Quadrantids meteor shower peak early Wednesday morning. The big, fat moon sets at 3:15 a.m., so very early risers could catch some falling stars between then and sunrise. The International Meteor Organization (www.imo.net) says the hourly rate could be 120, but, in all honesty, you’ll be lucky to spot a handful. If you spy them, they appear to emanate from the near the Big Dipper and Little Dipper constellations in the northeast. You may see a few errant Quadrantids up to Jan. 12, according to the IMO.
Jan. 5 – “How Do Astronomers Know How Big Asteroids Are?” a lecture by astronomer Melissa Hayes-Gehrke, at the open house, University of Maryland Observatory, College Park. Weather permitting, see the night sky through telescopes after the lecture. 8 p.m., 301-405-6555. www.astro.umd.edu/
Jan. 8 –“A Survey of Star Atlases,” presented by astronomer Cal Powell at the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club meeting, Room 80, Enterprise Hall, George Mason University, Fairfax. 7 p.m. www.novac.com.
Jan. 14 – Guy Brandenburg explains “Making Your Own Telescope” at the National Capital Astronomers meeting, University of Maryland Observatory, College Park. 7:30 p.m. www.capitalastronomers.org.
Jan. 14 – Stargazing at the National Air and Space Museum’s Public Observatory, adjacent to the museum building. 6:45 p.m. National Air and Space Museum, National Mall. Free. www.nasm.si.edu.
Jan. 20 – Anne Lohfink, an astronomer who researches the physics of compact cosmic objects and their surroundings, speaks at the open house, University of Maryland Observatory, College Park. View the heavens through telescopes after lecture, weather permitting. 8 p.m. 301-405-6555. www.astro.umd.edu/openhouse/.
Jan. 28 – Neither Bieber, Bublénor Bono compare to authentic stars: “How Are Stars Born?” at the Montgomery College Planetarium, Takoma Park. 7 p.m. www.montgomerycollege.edu/departments/planet/.
Jan. 28 – “Sand Dunes Throughout the Solar System,” a lecture by geologist Jim Zimbelman, of the Smithsonian Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. This is part of the Smithsonian’s Stars Lecture Series. 5:45 p.m., Albert Einstein Planetarium, National Air and Space Museum, the Mall. After the presentation, stargazing at the museum’s public observatory (about 6:45 p.m.) www.nasm.si.edu
Blaine Friedlander can be reached at PostSkyWatch@gmail.com.