StarGazer Janaury 2018
by Paul Morgan
This is the Umpqua Stargazer for January 2018 Umpqua Star Gazer January 2018 By Paul Morgan Super Moons and more. January boasts two full moons, both are super moons or full moons occurring closest to the earth or at perigee. A super full moon can appear up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than a typical full moon. The first super moon, on January 1st, is the closest and largest apparent full perigee or super moon for 2018. Look to the east northeast at about 5 p.m. PST to see the Wolf Full Moon rise. This is the closest super moon until 2034. The November 2034 super moon will be 156 kilometers closer and appear 4 hundredth of a percent larger. Let’s call that a tie. If the clouds part on the night of New Year’s Day, head out and watch one the best super moons this century. The second full moon in the same month is called a “Blue Moon”. The January 31st full moon is a Blue Super Moon. It is also the last super moon of 2018. It is a more distant perigee full moon than the one seen on New Year’s Day and will not appear as large. However, a blue super moon it is a rare event, only happening 7 times this century. But wait, there’s more. Not only is the January 31st full moon a Blue Super Moon, it will be covered by the earth’s shadow a few hours after perigee. The January 31st full moon will be a Total Eclipsed Blue Super Moon. Set your alarm, if the predawn skies are fog and clouds-free, for 3:45 a.m. PST. That’s the partial phase start of a Total Lunar Eclipse. Totality begins at 4:51 a.m. and ends at 6:08 a.m. PST. The Lunar Eclipse is over at 7:12 a.m. PST, just 13 minutes into the dawn twilight. How often do we have two super moons in a month with the second blue super moon being a total lunar eclipse? Not often, only twice this century, January 2018 and then January 2037. However, this January’s dual super moons and lunar eclipse are better than the ones do in 2037. Cross your fingers for clear skies. Planets January evenings will be without bright planets. Dim Uranus and Neptune are well placed this month for telescope observers as the sky darkens. Predawn skies offer views of four bright planets and two planetary conjunctions. The first paring is between Mars and Jupiter. Look at 3:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day morning, to spot bright Jupiter, low in the east southeast. About 2 ½ degrees above and to the right of Jupiter is much dimmer Mars. Also, slightly less than 2 degrees from Jupiter, is the 2nd magnitude star, Alpha Librae or Zubenelgenubi ( “Zuben”). This celestial trio rapidly switch positions during the next 5 days. On January 2nd, Mars sits about ½ degree above Zuben and less than 2 degrees from Jupiter. Look on the morning of January 5th to see a string of “stars”. Jupiter, then Mars and lastly Zuben. Mars creeps to within 17 arc minutes (about ½ a moon-width) from Jupiter on January 6th. The next morning, Mars has slipped below Jupiter by 20 arc minutes. Mars then speeds away each morning after the 7th. Look on the 11th to see an old crescent moon above a wide row of Mars, Jupiter and Zuben. Saturn and Mercury also dance together in the dawn twilight. Each morning Mercury slips a bit closer to the rising sun; while Saturn climbs away. Mercury rises on New Year’s morn at about 6 a.m., preceding Saturn by about a half hour. On January 1st the two worlds appear to be separated by about 14 degrees. By January 11th, the gap is only 2 degrees. The next morning , Saturn and Mercury are side by side, only a degree apart. On January 13th, Saturn seems to sit atop Mercury by about ¾ of a degree. An ultra thin crescent old moon joins the duo the next morning. After looking at Mercury and Saturn on the 14th, glance to the right toward the south about 45 degrees to spot Mars and Jupiter. Meteor Shower, Earth Perihelion and Sunrise Times The year’s first meteor shower is on the night of January 3/4th. The Quadrantids Meteor Shower is seldom observed in the valleys of the Umpqua but this year you have an excuse not to set your alarm clock. The peak rate of over 100 meteors per hour occurs at about 3 a.m. but the nearly full moon will wash away all but the brightest meteors. Next year, set your alarm. Earth is closest to the Sun (perihelion) on January 2 at 9:35 p.m. PST. This annual orbital event brings the earth to within 91,375,558 miles of the sun. Feel the warmth. Sunsets are occurring about a minute a day later as January opens. However, sunrises are stuck until January 7th. Slowly after the 7th, sunrise creeps a bit earlier by a few seconds per day. By mid-month, we gain ½ a minute per morning and close the month gaining nearly a minute. Longer days anyone? Morgan Observatory at U.C.C. Check out the Observatory webpage www.umpqua.edu/observatory for announcements about possible stargazing events and to confirm good observing conditions prior to making the trip to the college. Parking is available near the Tower Building at U.C.C. All events are offered without charge. Dress warmly as the nights are very cold at the observatory. Umpqua Astronomers Meeting Come on January 9th at 7 p.m. at the U.C.C. Wayne Crooch Hall Room 18 for the Umpqua Astronomers January meeting. Club news, monthly sky events and Astronomy news will be presented. Paul Morgan will talk about upcoming astronomical events for 2018. Everyone interested in Astronomy is welcome. Newcomers to astronomy are invited to a special pre-meeting at 6:30 p.m. to ask questions and learn about beginning astronomy. For more information visit http://www.umpquaastronomers.org . or call 541-673-1081.