This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the period ending Wednesday, January 30, 2013. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
The bright moon dominates the night sky this week. Its phase changes from waxing gibbous to full on Saturday night, the 26th. The traditional name for the January full moon, given to it by the Algonquin people of northeast North America, is the full Wolf moon. On the following nights though the remainder of the month, the moon will appear in waning gibbous phase. Starting on Monday the 28th, the moon will start to rise after darkness falls.
Bright cream-yellow planet Jupiter is high in the eastern sky in evening twilight. The planet is unmistakable because of its steady brilliance. Jupiter is located near the orange star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. The planet is highest and in the south at about 7:45 p.m. It continues to move toward the west as the night proceeds, and sets in the west-northwest at 2:50 a.m. Binoculars with as little as 6 power, if held steadily, can reveal Jupiter’s four largest moons. A telescope will show details of the planet’s clouds. Jupiter and the moon are among the objects featured through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes this week.
Planet Saturn, in Libra the Scales, is well placed for viewing, more than 30 degrees high in the southeast, between 3:30 a.m. and the start of dawn at 5:30 a.m. The planet is to the lower left of a star of equal brilliance, Spica, of Virgo the Maiden, but Saturn shines more steadily and with a warmer hue. A telescope will show a spectacular view of the north face of Saturn’s rings, tilted about 19 degrees in our direction.
The brightest planet, silvery Venus, is only visible easily after dawn is well advanced. At 6:35 a.m., Venus can be found 5 degrees high in the east-southeast.
The International Space Station will pass high above Los Angeles on the morning of Wednesday, January 30th. The giant satellite, outshining everything then in the sky except the moon, is scheduled to cross the sky from the northwest to the southeast between 5:58 and 6:04 a.m., P.S.T. It reaches is highest point 69 degrees above the southwest horizon at 6:01 a.m. For updated information closer to the time of the passage, or for satellite visibility from other locations, check the Heavens-Above website.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night, are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes Wednesday-Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star Party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place between 2:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 16.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.