The January 2019 Night Sky

Welcome to the January night sky. On the first month of the New Year we can see the Quadrantids meteor shower during the nights of the 3rd and 4th.

This shower is best observed after midnight as is the case with most meteor showers. This is because when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere they will be brighter when the Earth’s orbital velocity is added to the meteor’s own velocity relative to the Sun. This happens on the far side of the night hemisphere between midnight and dawn.

Also, just before dawn on the 6th, the planet Venus will be at its greatest distance from the Sun as seen from our view point on Earth. This means that Venus will shine brightly in a truly dark sky and, through a small telescope, it will be 50% illuminated.

On the 22nd of the month, Venus and the gas giant planet Jupiter will be very close together in the rapidly brightening sky. Jupiter will be the lower of the pair and the faintest. It is more than a dozen times larger than Venus in terms of diameter but, because it is much farther away as seen through a small telescope, it will appear to be approximately the same size. Venus is by far the brightest of the planets, especially when seen in a dark sky, and, at this time of the year, can often be mistaken for the mythical star of Bethlehem.

The Full Moons of January, February and March are considered super-moons as they occur when the Moon is at perigee – at the point of its orbit that will take it closest to the Earth. This means that the Full Moon will appear slightly larger in the night sky than usual. But the Full Moon of January 21, 2019 is also a total eclipse – this happens when the Moon enters the shadow of the Earth and it will turn dark red. This total eclipse of the Moon will be fully visible from western Europe, if weather permits, although it will be seen from approximately 3am to 6am on a cold winter’s night.

The Moon is new on the 6th, first quarter on the 14th, full on the 21st and last quarter on January 27.

By Clive Jackson
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Clive Jackson is the Director of the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.
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To see the January Sky Map click on the pdf link below

PDF link: ar_-_algarve_skies_2019-01_january