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Star Gazing - January 15, 2018
Monday, January 15
• In this coldest time of the year, the dim Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) hangs straight down from Polaris after
dinnertime, as if, per Leslie Peltier, from a nail on the cold north wall of the sky. The Big Dipper, meanwhile, is
creeping up low in the north-northeast. Its handle is very low and its bowl is to the upper right.
Tuesday, January 16
• After dinnertime, the enormous Andromeda-Pegasus complex runs from near the zenith down toward the western
Just west of the zenith, spot Andromeda's high foot: 2nd-magnitude Gamma Andromedae (Almach), slightly orange.
Andromeda is standing on her head. About halfway down from the zenith to the west horizon is the Great Square of
Pegasus, balancing on one corner. Down from its bottom corner run the stars outlining Pegasus's neck and head,
ending at his nose: 2nd-magnitude Enif, due west and also slightly orange.
• New Moon (exact at 9:17 p.m. EST).
Wednesday, January 17
• On these moonless nights, explore little-known sights in Cassiopeia, high in the northwest — do you know about
Eddie's Coaster? — using Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders article, chart, and photos in the January Sky & Telescope,
For some more ambitions dark-sky targets, try for the dark clouds in Taurus charted in Alan Whitman's Going Deep
column on page 57 of the same issue.
Thursday, January 18
• Sirius twinkles brightly after dinnertime below Orion in the southeast. Around 8 or 9 p.m., depending on your
location, Sirius shines precisely below fiery Betelgeuse in Orion's shoulder. How accurately can you time this event for
your location, perhaps using a plumb bob or the vertical edge of a building? Of the two, Sirius leads early in the
evening, and Betelgeuse leads later. Welcome to pre-telescopic astronomy.
Friday, January 19
• The Moon is still just a thin waxing crescent and, in any case, it sets pretty soon after dusk. So: is your sky dark
enough for you to see the winter Milky Way? By midevening now, the Milky Way runs vertically up and across the
zenith: from Canis Major low in the southeast, up between Orion and Gemini, through Auriga and Perseus almost
straight overhead, and down through Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Cygnus to the northwest horizon.
Saturday, January 20
• Zero-magnitude Capella high overhead, and equally bright Rigel in Orion's foot, are at almost the same right
ascension. This means they cross your sky’s meridian at almost exactly the same time: around 9 p.m. now, depending
on how far east or west you live in your time zone. (Capella goes exactly through your zenith if you're at latitude 46°
north: Portland, Oregon; Montreal; central France.)
So whenever Capella passes its very highest, Rigel is always marking true south over your landscape, and vice versa.
Starry, Starry Night . . .
"I know nothing of any certainty, but the sight of the stars
makes me dream." -Vincent Van Gogh