StormTeam 11 Starwatch: Monday, January 1st – Sunday, January 7th 2018

Happy Monday!

Welcome to the seventh edition of StormTeam11 Starwatch! This is a blog that will be posted weekly that will list events happening in the sky this week!

Monday, January 1st 2018:

Early this morning you will be able to see Mercury with the naked eye! Mercury will reach its greatest elongation from the Sun (23 degrees) this morning and will be 10 degrees above the southeast horizon about an hour before the sun rises. It will be about the same brightness as Antares, which is a 1st magnitude red supergiant star in the constellation Scorpio. As you can see in the image below, Mercury will be to the left of Antares.

 

 

Image Courtesy of ETSU Department of Physics & Astronomy

 

Also at night on January 1st, is the first full moon of 2018. You will be able to see the phase exactly at 9:24 PM EST. There are two full moons in January but this moon is also a “supermoon”. A supermoon occurs when the full moon phase coincides with perigee, when the moon is closest to the Earth in its orbit. You might recall we had a supermoon early in December as well. The moon’s apparent diameter is about 13% bigger than when it is farthest from Earth, so the moon will appear a little brighter and closer than it normally is. However, this difference is a little tricky to see unless you view the moon often. The moon also often looks bigger when it rises near the horizon! This is called the “Moon Illusion”.

The October 2017 “Harvest” Moon looked huge as it rose over the Appalachian Mountains as seen from the Harry D. Powell Observatory on the ETSU campus as you can see below.

 

Photo Courtesy of Isaiah Cox

 

Saturday & Sunday, January 6th and 7th 2018:

Additionally, on the mornings of January 6th and 7th you will be able to see a conjunction of Jupiter and Mars in the sky. The apparent separation between the two plants will be about ¼ degree both mornings, which is about half of the diameter of the full moon in the sky. Jupiter’s glare could make Mars difficult to see because Jupiter will appear 20 times brighter. Binoculars might help you distinguish the two planets. Mars will look reddish and will be just below Jupiter high in the southeastern sky about an hour before sunrise.

Image Courtesy of ETSU Department of Physics & Astronomy

 

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Adam Thanz from Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium and Dr. Gary Henson from ETSU for this information.

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