Astronomical Events this Month

It’s the start of the new year and for astronomy enthusiasts, that means a whole new calendar for astronomical events! Let’s break down the major events to look out for the month of January 2017.

January 3-4: Quadrantids Meteor Shower

Starting off the 2017 astronomical events is an above average meteor shower. The Quadrantids meteor shower has been recorded to show at least 40 meteors per hour at its peak time. Scientists theorize that these meteors are dust grains that was left behind by an extinct comet discovered in 2003. While the shower is an annual event that runs from the first to the fifth of January, this year it will peak on the third and fourth of this month. It will begin short after midnight and can be seen best by those who live in North America.

January 12: Full Moon

Peaking at 11:34 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), this will be the first full moon of the year. You won’t need your telescope for this one but you may, if you want to have a closer look at what the Native Americans once refer to as the Full Wolf Moon. As known by many, a full moon is the lunar phase that happens when the moon is completely illuminated as perceived on Earth. It occurs when the hemisphere of the moon which is facing Earth is almost completely illuminated by the Sun and appears round.

January 12: Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation

If you want to take a closer look at the second planet in our solar system, this will be a good day to do it. On this day, Venus will reach its greatest eastern elongation of 47.1 degrees from the Sun. A planet’s elongation is the angle between the Sun and the planet, with the Earth as the reference point. The greatest elongation of any given planet happens when the inner plant’s position is its orbital path to the Sun, is at tangent to the observer on Earth. As this is an eastern elongation, expect it to occur shortly after sunset.

January 19: Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation

While the eastern elongation occurs after sunset, the western elongation occurs before sunrise. Mercury will be at 24.1 degrees from the sun.

January 28: New Moon

Commonly known as the first phase of the Moon. When observed from Earth, the new moon occurs at the moment when the Moon and the Sun have the same ecliptical longtitude. While the moon itself is not particularly visible, it would appear the same as it would during a solar eclipse (as a silhouette). In non-astronomical perspectives, new moon refers to the first visible crescent of the Moon after a conjunction with the Sun. It’s a good chance to observe the different phases of the moon and jot them down in your astronomy journal.

With the several events that occur this month, it’s a good practice run for the rest of the year. You can either observe it by yourself or get in touch with the astronomy clubs or organizations in your area and start building your network to always be in the know of the upcoming celestial events worth seeing!