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Skywatching Highlights for January 2022: Don’t Miss Quadrantid Meteor Shower and Mars Rising

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What’s Up for January? New year, new Moon; midnight meteors; and MarsMars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. Iron oxide is prevalent in Mars’ surface resulting in its reddish color and its nickname “The Red Planet.” Mars’ name comes from the Roman god of war.”>Mars rises.

January begins with a new moon on the 2nd. And that means the first week of the month is ideal for stargazing because the few days before and after the new moon are the darkest. Head outside around 8 or 9 p.m. all week and look southward to be dazzled by all the bright stars of the Winter Circle, along with the Pleiades, and Orion.

The couple of days around January 2 new moon phase are ideal for stargazing, as there’s no bright moonlight to interfere with the fainter stars. This sky chart shows how the bright stars Winter Circle will appear mid-evening. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on the night of January 2nd and the morning of the 3rd. This tends to be one of the better meteor showers of the year, and often produces a number of bright meteors called fireballs. This year the peak coincides with the new moon, making for great viewing conditions, provided the skies are clear. You should be able to see a few meteors on the couple of nights before and after as well. 

For the best Quadrantid meteor viewing, find a dark location away from bright city lights, point your feet roughly toward the northeast, and look up. The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Boötes, which includes the bright star Arcturus. (But they can appear anywhere in the sky!) Generally, the best viewing will be after midnight, once Boötes rises above your local horizon. The source of the Quadrantids is thought to be the asteroid 2003 EH1, which might actually be an extinct comet. So start off your new year by catching a few shooting stars after midnight on January 3rd.

Skywatching January 3, 2022

The Quadrantid meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Boötes, which rises around midnight local time. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Finally, a couple of highlights at dusk and dawn. On January 5th, look to the southwest after sunset to find the crescent Moon in a close pairing with brilliant JupiterJupiter is the largest planet in the solar system and the fifth planet from the sun. It is a gas giant with a mass greater then all of the other planets combined. Its name comes from the Roman god Jupiter.”>Jupiter. The two will be only about 4 degrees apart, which should make them appear together through most binoculars.

Skywatching January 5, 2022

Find the crescent Moon only about 4 degrees away from Jupiter on January 2. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Then at the end of the month, on January 29th, if you happen to be up early, you can catch sight of the Moon near the Red Planet. Joining the pair in the southeastern sky will be VenusVenus, the second planet from the sun, is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the moon, it is the second-brightest natural object in the night sky. Its rotation (243 Earth days) takes longer than its orbit of the Sun (224.7 Earth days). It is sometimes called Earth’s “sister planet” because of their similar composition, size, mass, and proximity to the Sun. It has no natural satellites.”>Venus. Having left the evening skies last month, Venus is now rising before the Sun as the “Morning Star.” Now, Mars is slowly returning to view after passing behind the Sun over the past few months. In fact, NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. It’s vision is “To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.””>NASA stops communicating with our spacecraft at Mars for about 2 weeks every two years, when the planet is directly opposite the Sun. That event, called solar conjunction, took place back in October.

Skywatching January 29. 2022

Mars and Venus return to the morning sky in January. Find them with the Moon on the 29th. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars will continue to brighten and climb higher over the next few months, where it’ll have super-close conjunctions with SaturnSaturn is the sixth planet from the sun and has the second-largest mass in the Solar System. It has a much lower density than Earth but has a much greater volume. Saturn’s name comes from the Roman god of wealth and agriculture.”>Saturn and Jupiter, which we’ll tell you about in future videos, so stay tuned!

Preston Dyches, Christopher Harris, and Lisa Poje are the science communicators and space enthusiasts who produce this monthly video series for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Additional astronomy subject matter guidance is provided by Bill Dunford, Gary Spiers, and Lyle Tavernier.

Source: SciTechDaily