This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through January 27, 2016. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The moon is full on Saturday the 23rd, and by the 26th rises at 8:08 p.m. The traditional Algonquin-American nickname for the January full moon is the “Wolf Moon.”
Brilliant planet Jupiter, in the constellation Leo the Lion, gleams in the eastern sky shortly after it rises. This occurs at about 9:00 p.m. through the 27th. Jupiter is high enough in the sky for detailed telescopic examination at about 11:20 p.m.
Most of the excitement over the planets during the next month, however, is the opportunity to see all of bright planets together during the dawn. Starting on the 23rd, the planet Mercury will be bright enough to see when it is five degrees above the east-southeast horizon at 6:30 a.m. Five degrees is approximately the same as the angle covered by the width of three fingers held together and viewed at arm’s length. This is the start of a month of visibility for the innermost planet. What is particularly special about this appearance is that it is accompanied by all of the other bright planets in a line that extends 100 degrees across the southern sky. This marks the first time in the last decade that all of the bright planets can be seen together. Starting in the east-southeast at Mercury and working upward and to the right, to the southwest, are Venus, the brightest planet, golden Saturn, in the southeast, orange Mars, in the south, and yellow Jupiter, the second brightest planet. A star, equal to Mars in brightness but with a blue color, shines between Mars and Jupiter. This is Spica, the brightest star of the constellation Virgo the Maiden. The waning gibbous moon will join the group, starting close to Jupiter on the 27th. Next week’s Sky Report will describe the moon’s passage by each of the planets.
The International Space Station will make two morning appearances over Los Angeles. On Friday the 22nd, the ISS will outshine Jupiter as it crosses the sky from northwest to east-southeast between 5:55 and 6:02 a.m. It will appear at its highest, 55 degrees above the northeast horizon, at 5:57 a.m., PST. On Sunday the 24th, the ISS first appears in the west-southwest, where it moves into sunlight when 29 degrees high at 5:47 a.m. The brilliant satellite reaches its highest point, 48 degrees above the southeast horizon, about a minute later. It reaches the south-southeast horizon at 5:52 a.m. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, a member of the international crew of six, has completed more than 10 months of a nearly year long mission aboard the station.
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 from Tuesday through Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the 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 on Saturday, February 13.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org