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January 2008
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6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31

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Astronomical Online Glossary

Download this month's sky map!

Northern hemisphere sky map
Southern hemisphere sky map
Creator: Kym Thalassoudis

Southern Hemisphere Additional Information

James Barclay's site
Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand's Southern Hemisphere Calendar RASNZ site
Southern Sky Watch.

Planets for January 2008

  • Mercury- visible in evening twilight higher and brighter as the month progresses. Mercury reaches its greatest elongation east on the 22nd (19deg) on the 23 (4UT) Mercury will be .3 deg North of a very dim Neptune -0.9 mag (1st) to -0.7 mag (21st)
  • Venus- Venus is the queen of the morning all month, rising 3 hours before the Sun at the beginning of the month but only 2 hours before the sun at the end of the month. Watch Venus and Jupiter throughout the month as they get closer, about 1 deg a day, until the 31st when they are only 1 deg apart. -3.9 mag (1st) to -3.9 mag (21st)
  • Mars- Just past its December opposition Mars is visible almost all night. Officially in Taurus it appears to be closer to the leg of Castor of Gemini the twins. Mars moves into a nice orange/red triangle with Betelgeuse and Aldebaran before becoming stationary on the 20th and returning to direct (eastward) motion for the rest of the month. -1.5 (1st) to -0.9 mag (21st)
  • Ceres-
  • Jupiter- Jupiter has been hiding behind the sun now reappears in the morning sky climbing higher in the sky. By mid-month Jupiter rises 9 deg above the horizon before sunrise, by the end of the month Jupiter and Venus are 1 deg apart. -1.8 mag (1st) to -1.8 mag (21st)
  • Saturn- In Leo all year Saturn rises mid-evening at the beginning of January. The tilt of Saturn's rings increases from 6.7 deg to 9.9 deg in early May before beginning to close again at the end of 2008. 0.7 mag (1st) to 0.6 mag (21st)
  • Uranus-In Aquarius all year 5.9 mag (1st) to 5.9 mag (21st)
  • Neptune-In Capricorn 8.0 mag (1st) to 8.0 mag (21st)
Click on thumbnail for full sky image

Key Dates for January 2008

Days and Times in UT: (help with time)
Observations are for 10pm for the mid-southern latitudes and for 8pm for the mid-northern latitudes.
Today's sunrise and sunset times or plan ahead using the US Naval Observatory Website

Occultation information can be found at the IOTA website!

Astronomical Highlights


1 - Ceres stationary

- Watch for comet 8P/Tuttle moving from Aries to Cetus

- Algol at minimum (15:15 UT)
2 - Earth at perihelion (147096448 km) our closest point to the Sun in Earth's orbit. (23h UT)
3 - Moon at apogee (405331 km) furthest point away from Earth in its orbit
4 - Quadrantid meteor shower peak named after an extinct constellation, Quadrans Muralis or the mural quadrant an astronomical tool similar to a astrolab or clinometer.
5 - Antares 0.5 deg N of Moon check the IOTA pages for occultations (S.S.America, part of Antarctica)

- Latest sunrise at latitude 40 deg North*
8 - New Moon (11:37 UT)
11 - Neptune 0.4 deg N of Moon, check the IOTA pages for occultations (S tips of Australia, part of Antarctica, New Zealand)
15 - First Quarter Moon (19:46 UT)
16 - Vesta 1.9 deg SSE of Mercury in evening sky
18 - Moon 1.1 deg N of Pleiades (M45) (7 UT)
19 - Moon at perigee (366430 km) (9 UT)
20 - Mars 1.1 deg S of Moon, check the IOTA pages for occultations (N.Russia, Arctic regions, NW Tip of N. America)
22 - Mercury at greatest elongation E (19 deg) (5 UT)

- Full Moon (13:35 UT)
23 - Moon 0.3 deg N of Beehive (M44)
24 - Regulus 0.7 deg N of Moon, check the IOTA pages for occultations (S. Indonesia, Australia, part of Antarctica
30 - Last Quarter Moon (5:03 UT)

- Mars stationary
31 - Moon at apogee (404533 km)
The Dark Days of Winter
sunrise and sunset times for your home*
Comparative lengths of day and night

Monthly Messier*

This month on the tour we will be attempting several of the most difficult objects in the Catalog, a small faint planetary nebula, and a pair of face on spiral galaxies. Also featured this month is a small, but fairly bright galaxy and three open clusters. You will need binoculars and a telescope to fully enjoy the January tour.

  • M33 - This is a very large (about the size of the full moon) face on spiral galaxy in the constellation Triangulum. The total light from M33 is about magnitude 5.3, but when spread out over its large area it yields a very low surface brightness. The best and easiest views of M33 can be found with a pair of binoculars. Look for a large, round hazy patch of light with little detail at first glance. M33 can be glimpsed with the naked eye in dark clear skies. Finding M33 in a telescope can be a challenge because of its size. Use the widest field eyepiece you have and look for a change in light level to identify the galaxy.
  • M103 - This is a fairly small, sparse open cluster in Cassiopeia. Look for a tight group of stars in binoculars, being careful not to mistake it for several other clusters in the same area. Through a telescope the cluster is very sparse, four bright stars amidst the slight glow of much fainter companions.
  • M52 - M52 - This rich open cluster in Cassiopeia is fairly easy to see in binoculars as a faint smudge of light. A small to mid telescope will begin to resolve this cluster. Look for a triangular patch of light with some stars clearly resolved, but most of the cluster members provide only a hint of graininess.
  • M76 - Known as the little dumbbell, this planetary nebula in Perseus is one of the dimmest objects in the Catalog. Look for a small, faint, oblong patch of light. Not a very obvious object, if you don't see it at first try varying magnifications in an attempt to bring it out. Fortunately M76 is located near a bright star which aids in locating the correct field to search.
  • M34 - This is a large and bright, but sparse open cluster located in Perseus. Visible as a faint patch of light to the naked eye, it is very obvious and easy to resolve in binoculars. In fact, binoculars provide a better view of this cluster than most telescopes.
  • M74 - This galaxy in Pisces is a smaller and fainter version of M33, a face on spiral galaxy with low surface brightness. M74 is arguably the most difficult object to find in the Catalog. You will need very dark, clear skies to easily see it, anything less than perfect conditions will make M74 nearly impossible to find. Look for a very faint fuzzy star, which is the bright central condensation, surrounded by a very faint glow. Try all of your tricks on this one; star hop to the correct field, try varying magnification, tap the scope to detect the galaxy through its motion. If all of the above fail, try again another night or seek darker skies.
  • M77 - This is a small faint galaxy in Cetus. Possible to see in binoculars, but very difficult, look for a faint fuzzy star. Through a telescope look for a fuzzy, oval shaped patch of light, bright in the center, fading towards the edges.

From the Astronomical Connection and the Moncton Center in Canada

Comets for January 2008

Gary Kronk's comet and meteor pages
Skyhound Comet pages

Historical and Current Events

...Did you know?

Mark has developed his own website so let's all trot on over and see the pages of wonderful history he has for us this month!

Help us out by leaving a donation in the ol' PayPal hat

or write us a favorable review in iTunes of Podcast Pickle or iPodder!

Music Scottish Guitar Quartet -"Romance within you"
Three Blind Mice- "Watchstar"
Friction Bailey - "Auld Lang Syne"

Astronomical Highlights for 2008

Earth's major motions for 2008

Jan 3 00h(UT)
First Cross Quarter Day
Feb 2-6
Mar 20 05:48(UT)
Second Cross Quarter Day
May 4-7
June 20 23:59(UT)
July 4 08h (UT)
Third Cross Quarter Day
Aug 5-8
Sept 22 15:44(UT)
Fourth Cross Quarter Day
Nov 5-8
Dec 21 12:04(UT)

Planet Positions for 2008

2008 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Venus Sgr Cap Aqr Psc Tau Gem Cnc Vir Vir Sco Sgr Cap
Mars Tau Tau Gem Gem Cnc Leo Leo Vir Vir Vir Sco Oph
Jupiter Sgr Sgr Sgr Sgr Sgr Sgr Sgr Sgr Sgr Sgr Sgr Sgr
Saturn Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo

Interesting Planet Pairing for 2008

  • January (first two week) - Mars, Betelgeuse and Aldebaran - Mars will be moving westward into this red triangle, pausing at the end of the month and then returning to regular Eastward motion at the beginning of February.
  • February 1 (start watching in early January) - Jupiter and Venus - Start this early in January with Jupiter just off the horizon and watch as they creep closer and closer. On the 1st of Feb early in the morning, about one hour before sunrise in the east, Jupiter and Venus are less than one degree apart in the constellation Sagittarius. They will be outstanding and you could imagine all sorts of symbolism that could be associated with this conjunction.
  • February 27 - Mercury and Venus - Rising just one hour before the Sun in the East in the constellation Capricornus. Venus and Mercury will be just over one degree apart and then Venus will speed off, with Mercury in hot pursuit.
  • March 24 - Mercury and Venus...again - Mercury catches up to Venus again, this time less than one degree apart and in the constellation Aquarius. They will also be rising above the horizon only a half hour before the sun, so seeing them will be quite a challenge.
  • July 10 - Mars and Saturn - In the constellation Leo yellowish-white Saturn and reddish Mars will be less than one degree from each other. The pair is still up two hours after sunset and are bright so it should be easy to see.
  • August 13 - Venus and Saturn - Less than one degree apart in the constellation Leo. Venus will be the brighter of the two.
  • August 14 (watch from 10-16th)- Venus, Mercury, and Saturn - Just after sunset a triple conjunction! The three planets will be less than three degrees apart in the constellation Leo and almost in a line. Venus will be the highest and brightest Saturn the middle object and Mercury will be the lowest of the three but surprisingly brighter than Saturn. If you want to make this even more interesting look for Mars 16 degrees to the SW the trio.
  • August 19-21 - Venus and Mercury - The two planets will be about one degree apart for three days. VERY low on the western horizon at sunset.
  • September 11 (watch from 5-18)- Venus and Mars - Venus will come right next to the Red Planet, with the two less than one degree apart Mercury lying three and a half degrees away from the pair and shining brighter than Mars. The whole group will set just one hour after sunset.
  • December 1 - Venus and Jupiter - All within Sagittarius, the two planets will be two degrees apart and they don't set until three hours after sunset. As a bonus, a 15%-lit moon will lie three degrees away from Venus.
  • December 31 - Jupiter and Mercury - After sunset a little more than one degree apart in Sagittarius. Pull out the binos and telescopes because Mercury will be a mere 15 arcminutes from the globular cluster M75. All three will be together in one field of view in most home binoculars.

2008 Phases of the Moon

Universal Time

d h m d h m d h m d h m

JAN. 8 11 37 JAN. 15 19 46 JAN. 22 13 35 JAN. 30 5 03
FEB. 7 3 44 FEB. 14 3 33 FEB. 21 3 30 FEB. 29 2 18
MAR. 7 17 14 MAR. 14 10 46 MAR. 21 18 40 MAR. 29 21 47
APR. 6 3 55 APR. 12 18 32 APR. 20 10 25 APR. 28 14 12
MAY 5 12 18 MAY 12 3 47 MAY 20 2 11 MAY 28 2 57
JUNE 3 19 23 JUNE 10 15 04 JUNE 18 17 30 JUNE 26 12 10
JULY 3 2 19 JULY 10 4 35 JULY 18 7 59 JULY 25 18 42
AUG. 1 10 13 AUG. 8 20 20 AUG. 16 21 16 AUG. 23 23 50
AUG. 30 19 58 SEPT. 7 14 04 SEPT. 15 9 13 SEPT. 22 5 04
SEPT. 29 8 12 OCT. 7 9 04 OCT. 14 20 02 OCT. 21 11 55
OCT. 28 23 14 NOV. 6 4 03 NOV. 13 6 17 NOV. 19 21 31
NOV. 27 16 55 DEC. 5 21 26 DEC. 12 16 37 DEC. 19 10 29
DEC. 27 12 22

Eclipses for 2008

2008 February 07
[ Solar: Annular ]
2008 February 21
[ Lunar: Total ]
2008 August 01
[ Solar: Total ]
2008 August 16
[ Lunar: Partial ]
February 07 - Annular Solar Eclipse ( see map, times, and animation!): The first solar eclipse of 2008 occurs at the Moon's ascending node in Capricornus. An annular eclipse will be visible from a wide track, that traverses Antarctica and southern regions of the Pacific Ocean. A partial eclipse will be seen within the much larger path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes the southeastern third of Australia, all of New Zealand and most of Antarctica.

August 1 - Total Solar Eclipse ( see map, times, and animation!): On Friday, 2008 August 01, a total eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses half the Earth. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow begins in Canada and extends across northern Greenland, the Arctic, central Russia, Mongolia, and China. A partial eclipse is seen within the much broader path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes northeastern North America, most of Europe and Asia. Special website with extra information and links to live eclipse webcasts can be found at the NASA Eclipse Website for the August 1st Eclipse

February 20th - Total Lunar Eclipse ( see map, times.): The first lunar eclipse of 2008 is perfectly placed for observers throughout most of the Americas as well as western Europe. The eclipse occurs at the Moon's descending node, midway between perigee and apogee. During the eclipse, Saturn lies about 3° northeast of the Moon and shines brightly (mv = +0.2) because it is near opposition. Special website with live broadcast can be found at the NASA Eclipse Website

August 16 - Partial Lunar Eclipse ( see map, times): The last eclipse of 2008 is a partial lunar eclipse at the Moon's ascending node in Capricornus. It is visible primarily from the Eastern Hemisphere as well as eastern South America

Eclipse information from: NASA Eclipse Homepage, Eclipses Online (HM Nautical Almanac Office, UK in coordination with the U.S. Naval Observatory)

Meteor Showers for 2008

All times are UT

Name Date of Peak
Time in UT (help with time)
Moon Phase
Quadrantids January 4, 7h Waning Crescent
Lyrids April 22, 4h almost Full
Eta Aquarids May 5, 18h New Moon
Perseids August 12, 11h Waxing Gibbous
Orionids October 21, 4h Last Quarter
Leonids November 17, 10h Waning Gibbous
Geminids December 13, 23h Full Moon

Information from the "Observer's Handbook 2008" RASC

Direct download: AAGG_sky_tour_Jan_08.mp3
Category:Sky Tours -- posted at: 5:01 PM