Every Monday, I pick out the most notable North American celestial objects for the week ahead (which also applies to the mid-northern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere), but check back Check out my main feed For more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.
The night sky this week: January 1-7, 2024
If you thought you could start your stargazing year quietly, think again. First comes the Quadrantid meteor shower, one of the year's lesser-known but prolific displays of “meteors.” If you want to get out and see some fireballs (ultra-bright meteors), this week's last quarter moon will guarantee dark skies. However, clear skies are not easy to predict, unlike Earth's movements, which this week have brought it closer to the sun.
Here's everything you need to know about stargazing and astronomy this week:
Tuesday, January 2: Earth at perihelion – is it a “super sun?”
The Earth's orbit around the Sun is not a perfect circle. Today is “perigee,” the point at which the Earth is closest to the sun throughout the year. The word comes from the Greek words pyri (nearby) and helios (sun). Today, it will be 91.4 million miles (147,100,632 km) from the Sun, while at apogee on July 5 will put it 94.5 million miles (152,099,968 km) away, according to timeanddate.com.
That's because the Earth orbits the Sun in a slight ellipse, which means the Sun will appear slightly larger than usual, much like a “supermoon” does when it is closest to Earth. “Super Sun” anyone? Although it will be difficult to appreciate, try looking at the sun today through the solar eclipse glasses you prepared for the total solar eclipse on April 8.
Wednesday – Thursday, January 3 – 4: Quadrantid meteor shower
When it comes to meteor showers, the Quadrantids are not as well known although they cause about 120 “meteors” per hour at their peak, which is what is happening tonight. Propelled by 2003 EH1, a possible asteroid or “rocky comet,” according to NASAQuadrantids are also known for their bright spherical meteors – and they can appear anywhere in the night sky. However, its radiant point is close to the end of the handle of the Big Dipper.
Constellation of the month: Quadrans Muralis
There are 88 constellations in the night sky, all codified by the International Astronomical Union, so why bother looking for a constellation that doesn't officially exist anymore? This week, we'll see the Quadrantid meteor shower, which gets its name because the “shooting stars” appear to come from a constellation once called Quadrans Muralis. It became meaningless when the International Astronomical Union presented the official list. It lies between the constellations Potes and Draco, near the end of the handle of the Big Dipper, according to NASA.
Specific times and dates apply to mid-northern latitudes. For more accurate site-specific information, consult online planetariums such as Stellarium And Sky Live. Checks Planet rising/planet set, sunset Sunrise And Moonrise/moonset Times where you are.
I'm a night sky expert and book author Stargazing in 2024: 50 easy things to see in the night sky from North America. For the latest sky and total solar eclipse events, please subscribe or Check out my main feed Regularly receive new articles.
I wish you clear skies and wide eyes.
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