Night Sky Update - Week of Jan. 3

This is the Saint Louis Science Center’s NIGHT SKY UPDATE for the week of Tuesday, January 3.  All times are given as local St. Louis time (Central Standard Time).  For definitions of terminology used in the night sky update, click the highlighted text.

Information updated weekly or as needed.

Join us for our next star party, Friday, January 6, 2017 held in association with the St. Louis Astronomical Society.  For details, see the information at the bottom of this page.

The Sun and the Moon

Sunrise is at 7:19 a.m. on Tuesday, January 3 and sunset is at 4:53 p.m. providing us with roughly 9.5 hours of daylight.  Even after sunset, the light from the Sun will still dimly illuminate our sky for about 1.5 hours.  This period of time is called twilight, which ends around 6:22 p.m. this week.  For those with a sun dial, solar transit or local noon occurs around 12:06 p.m. this week.

Day

Sunrise

Sunset

 03 Dec

7:19 a.m.

4:53 p.m.

 04 Dec

7:19 a.m.

4:53 p.m.

 05 Dec

7:19 a.m.

4:54 p.m.

 06 Dec

7:19 a.m.

4:55 p.m.

 07 Dec

7:19 a.m.

4:56 p.m.

 08 Jan

7:19 a.m.

4:57 p.m.

 09 Jan

7:19 a.m.

4:58 p.m.

 10 Jan

7:19 a.m.

4:59 p.m.

 11 Jan

7:18 a.m.

5:00 p.m.

 

Moonrise for Tuesday, January 3 occurs at 10:41 a.m. and moonset will occur at 10:29 p.m.  On Tuesday, January 3 the Moon will be exhibiting waxing crescent phase with about 28% of the lunar disk illuminated.  First quarter moon occurs on Thursday, January 5 at 1:47 p.m. 

International Space Station (ISS) Observing

Visible passes of ISS from St. Louis for the week of January 3 occur in the morning hours.  The best of these occurs on the morning of January 5.  Use the table below for information about this and other visible passes of ISS this week.

Catch ISS flying over St. Louis starting Tuesday, January 3                     

 

Mag

Starts

Max. altitude

Ends

Time

Alt.

Az.

Time

Alt.

Az.

Time

Alt.

Az.

04 Jan

-0.5

05:07:23

13

NE

05:07:23

13

NE

05:07:53

10

NE

04 Jan

-1.1

06:40:27

10

NW

06:41:50

12

NNW

06:43:14

10

N

05 Jan

-1.1

05:50:20

15

N

05:50:20

15

N

05:51:36

10

NNE

12 Jan

-0.8

06:11:18

10

N

06:12:49

13

NNE

06:14:21

10

NE

 

Magnitude (Mag): The Measure of brightness for a celestial object.  The lower the value is, the brighter the object will be.

 

Altitude (Alt):  The angle of a celestial object measured upwards from the observer’s horizon.

 

Azimuth (Az):  The direction of a celestial object, measured clockwise from an observer’s location with north being 0°, east being 90°, south being 180° and west being 270°.

  

For information about ISS flyovers and other visible satellites, visit www.heavens-above.com

 

Detailed information regarding all unmanned exploration of our universe, missions past, present, and planned, can be found at Jet Propulsion Laboratories:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/

 

The Planets Visible Without a Telescope

Venus

Venus can be seen low in the west about 20 minutes after sunset in the southwestern sky.  Venus sets by 8:37 p.m. 

Mars

The Red planet is currently found in Aquarius rising before the Sun and can be easily seen 30 minutes after sunset in the southwestern sky.  Mars sets by 9:33 p.m.

Jupiter

The largest planet in our solar system has started another apparition and can be found rising in the east at 12:51 a.m.  It is currently found in the constellation Virgo and is best seen in the eastern sky between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. 

Uranus and Neptune 2016

Both of the outer gas/ice giants are once again nicely placed in our evening skies.  Both have also reached opposition and as such will rise before the Sun sets.  Both planets will require binoculars to see and as such it will be best to wait until the end of twilight to start your search.  Uranus can be found in the constellation Piscis and Neptune is found in Aquarius.  The brighter of the two planets is Uranus shining with an apparent magnitude of 5.8.  Neptune’s apparent magnitude of 7.9 is within reach of binoculars but light pollution will make it difficult.  For up to date maps of the location of Uranus and Neptune follow the link below or use the free planetarium software Stellarium.

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/celestial-objects-to-watch/planets/ice-giants-neptune-and-uranus/

Constellation of the Month 2017

Over the last couple of years the night sky update has included information for locating a new deep sky object each week.  In 2017 we will change this by highlighting one constellation a month.  The first week of the month will always contain information regarding the constellation, its name, history and other such related topics.  Each week after will highlight a new object to look for.  A variety of objects will be highlighted but each month we will try to have an object that is visible through naked eye, binocular and telescope observations.

The constellation for the month of January is Orion the Hunter.  Arguably the most famous constellation in the sky, Orion can be found in the east shortly after sunset this time of year.  Orion is easily identified by looking for three bright stars in a straight line which represent the belt he is known for.  Moving from east to west the belt stars are named Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.  As the Earth rotates you will find these stars appearing to shift westward.  Around 6:00 p.m. Orion’s Belt can be found low in the east, around 10:00 p.m. it will be due south and near 3:00 a.m. it will be low in the West.  Once you learn to find Orion’s Belt you will notice four bright stars that form a rectangle around it.  The top two stars are named Betelgeuse and Bellatrix and the bottom two are Saiph and Rigel. 

The name Orion is a familiar to many.  Orion is known as the great hunter from Greek mythology who was defeated by the giant scorpion named Scorpius.  Where many of us may know his Greek story his name is not of Greek origin but rather is Sumerian.  This ancient culture developed the first civilization, they were the first scientific astronomers and were the first to have a written language.  Their observations of the sky serves as the platform that modern astronomy stands on.  In Sumerian Orion’s name was Uru-anna meaning light of the sky.  Uru-anna was often associated with Taurus the Bull and the bright star Sirius.  Over time this ancient constellation would be passed down from culture to culture remaining an important reference in the sky. 

For us today Orion remains one of the most recognizable patterns in the sky.  From him we can find numerous other constellations, stars and numerous deep sky objects.  Next week we will start our month of Orion observing with the bright a familiar star; Betelgeuse. 

http://www.iau.org/static/public/constellations/gif/ORI.gif

 

Our next Star Party will be held on Friday, January 6, 2017, from dusk until 10 p.m.

As part of the Saint Louis Science Center’s First Fridays, weather permitting, the St. Louis Astronomical Society and the Science Center will set up a number of telescopes outdoors and be on-hand to answer your questions.  Telescope viewing begins once it is dark.  Regardless of the weather on January 6, join us indoors in our planetarium theater for “The Sky Tonight”.  Showtime is at 7 p.m.   

This free, indoor star program will introduce you to the current night sky, the planets, and the seasonal constellations. Doors open 15 minutes before show time. Shows begins at 7 p.m. Sorry, no late admissions due to safety issues in the darkened theater. 

The St. Louis Astronomical Society helps host the monthly Star Parties at the Saint Louis Science Center which are held on the first Friday of each month. Our Monthly Star Parties are open to the public and free of charge. 

 

 

 

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