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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of January 2020

Posted by Guy Pirro   01/04/2020 04:24AM

Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of January 2020

This stellar relic, first spied by William Herschel in 1787, is nicknamed the Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392, C39) because, when viewed through ground-based telescopes, it resembles a face surrounded by a fur parka. In this Hubble telescope image, the parka is really a disk of material embellished with a ring of comet-shaped objects, with their tails streaming away from the central, dying star. Although the Eskimo's “face” resembles a ball of twine, it is, in reality, a bubble of material being blown into space by the central star's intense explosive wind of high-speed material. This object is an example of a planetary nebula, so named because many of them have a round appearance resembling that of a planet when viewed through a small telescope. A planetary nebula forms when dying Sun-like stars eject their outer gaseous layers, which then become bright nebulae with amazing and confounding shapes. The Eskimo Nebula is about 5000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Gemini and began forming about 10,000 years ago. [Credits: NASA, JPL – Caltech, and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI] [Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Andrew Fruchter (STScI), and the ERO team (STScI and ST-ECF)]



Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of January 2020

Happy New Year and welcome to the night sky report for January 2020 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. The winter sky is filled with brilliant stars. In January, the northern hemisphere features beautiful views of Capella - a pair of giant yellow stars, Aldebaran - a red giant star, two star clusters - the Hyades (Caldwell 41) and the Pleiades (M45), and the Crab Nebula (M1).

Orion the hunter is the centerpiece, striding into the night sky with a belt of three stars. Above Orion lies a five-sided figure that forms Auriga, the charioteer, who was associated with goats. Its brightest star is Capella, which is actually a pair of giant yellow stars.

Auriga balances on a horn of Taurus the bull. In Greek mythology, Taurus was seen as the god Zeus in disguise. His eye is orange Aldebaran, a red giant star nearing the end of its life. A number of the stars that form the bull’s V-shaped head are part of a star cluster called the Hyades.

The bull’s shoulder is marked by the distinctive Pleiades star cluster, also called the Seven Sisters. The cluster contains more than 250 stars, but only six or seven are visible to the naked eye. The view of the Pleiades from the Palomar Observatory shows the brightest stars surrounded by a dusty cloud. The dust reflects the blue light of these hot stars.

At the tip of Taurus’s horn lies the Crab Nebula. The Crab is the remains of a star that exploded as a supernova, observed by Chinese, Japanese, and Arab astronomers in 1054. Telescopes on the ground and in space have observed different forms of light given off by the Crab Nebula. Different wavelengths of visible and invisible light reveal details of the supernova remnant. Combining information from different wavelengths helps us better understand the expanding cloud of glowing gas and the spinning neutron star that remains at its core.







Antares is a red giant star located in the constellation Scorpius which has a distinctly reddish color. Since it's the brightest star in Scorpius, it's also known as Alpha Scorpii. Located about 500 light years away, Antares is enormous. It's much bigger than the orbit of Mars and it's about 10,000 times brighter than our Sun.

Antares is also a well-studied star, and thus its well-known brightness is sometimes used by researchers in studying other phenomena in space, such as the rings of Saturn. NASA's Cassini spacecraft watched Antares flicker behind Saturn's rings on on multiple occasions, which helped researchers understand the structure of the icy rings.

The name Antares translates as "rival to Mars" in ancient Greek, as the star rivals the Red Planet's appearance to the unaided eye, both in color and brightness. Mars rises before dawn during January along with Antares, its "rival."

You can view the pair low in the southeast, about an hour before sunrise each morning. Near the beginning of January, Mars appears above Antares. As the days progress, the planet moves lower and to the east of Antares. They're joined by a slim lunar crescent on January 20th for what should be a very pretty grouping.






The early morning of Jan. 4th brings the peak of the Quadrantid meteor shower. This annual shower can be one of the better ones of the year, although it has a much shorter peak than most other meteor showers - just a few hours versus a day or two.

The visibility of meteor showers from year to year has a lot to do with whether there's a bright Moon in the sky at the time or not. This year, the Moon will set soon after midnight local time, meaning viewing conditions should be good, provided your local skies are not obscured by winter weather.

Face toward the northeast between midnight and dawn to see as many as two dozen meteors per hour under dark skies. (And the farther away you get from city lights, the darker it'll be). So bundle up, and be sure to give your eyes a little time to adapt to the dark, including a break from your mobile device, in order to see the maximum number of meteors.

Unlike most meteor showers which originate from comets, the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid. Their parent body, asteroid 2003 EH1, orbits the Sun every five and a half years. Astronomers think it's possible that 2003 EH might be a "dead comet" or a new kind of object being discussed by scientists called a "rock comet."

In the early morning of January 5th, the Earth will be at perihelion, the closest we get to the Sun in our orbit. Between perihelion and 6 months later at aphelion there is about a 6.7 percent difference in the intensity of the sunlight reaching the Earth, one of the reasons the seasons in the Southern hemisphere are more extreme than in the Northern Hemisphere. Perihelion is also when the Earth is moving the fastest in its orbit around the Sun, so if you run east at local midnight, you will be moving about as fast as you can (in Sun-centered coordinates) for your location.

On January 10th, the planet Mercury will be passing on the far side of the Sun as seen from the Earth, called superior conjunction. Because Mercury orbits inside of the orbit of Earth, it will be shifting from the morning sky to the evening sky and will begin emerging from the glow of dusk on the western horizon in late January.

Closing out the month, the crescent Moon and Venus once again make for a gorgeous sight at the end of January, on the same day of the month as they did back in December. On January 28th, you'll find the pair hovering in the southwest in the hour or so after sunset that evening, so be sure to go out and take a look.

The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.

The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."


 Constellation: Auriga

IC 405                          Diffuse Nebula           C31 Flaming Star Nebula

IC 2149                        Planetary Nebula        P126

NGC 1664                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H59-8

NGC 1778                    Open Cluster               P68

NGC 1857                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H33-7

NGC 1883                    Open Cluster               P211

NGC 1893                    Open Cluster               P69

NGC 1907                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H39-7

NGC 1912                    Open Cluster               M38

NGC 1931                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H261-1

NGC 1960                    Open Cluster               M36

NGC 2099                    Open Cluster               M37

NGC 2126                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H68-8

NGC 2192                    Open Cluster               P212

NGC 2281                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H71-8


Constellation: Canis Major

IC 468                          Diffuse Nebula           P132

IC 2165                        Planetary Nebula        P133

NGC 2204                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H13-7

NGC 2207                    Galaxy                         P216

- IC 2163                    Galaxy                              - Interacting with P216

NGC 2217                    Galaxy                         P72

NGC 2243                    Open Cluster               P134

NGC 2287                    Open Cluster               M41

NGC 2345                    Open Cluster               P73

NGC 2354                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H16-7

NGC 2359                    Diffuse Nebula             P20 Thor’s Helmet

NGC 2360                    Open Cluster               C58, Herschel 400 H12-7

NGC 2362                    Open Cluster               C64, Herschel 400 H17-7 Tau Canis Major Cluster

NGC 2367                    Open Cluster               P74

NGC 2374                    Open Cluster               P75

NGC 2383                    Open Cluster               P135

NGC 2384                    Open Cluster               P76


Constellation: Canis Minor



Constellation: Gemini

IC 2157                        Open Cluster               P156

NGC 2129                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H26-8

NGC 2158                    Globular Cluster          Herschel 400 H17-6

NGC 2168                    Open Cluster               M35

NGC 2266                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H21-6

NGC 2304                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H2-6

NGC 2331                    Open Cluster               P157

NGC 2355                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H6-6

NGC 2371                    Planetary Nebula        Herschel 400 H316-2 (South) Paired with H317-2

NGC 2372                    Planetary Nebula        Herschel 400 H317-2 (North) Paired with H316-2

NGC 2392                    Planetary Nebula        C39, Herschel 400 H45-4 Eskimo Nebula

NGC 2395                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H11-8

NGC 2420                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H1-6


Constellation: Lepus

IC 418                          Planetary Nebula        P90 Spirograph Nebula

NGC 1904                    Globular Cluster          M79

NGC 1964                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H21-4


Constellation: Monoceros

NGC 2185                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H20-4

NGC 2215                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H20-7

NGC 2232                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H25-8

NGC 2236                    Open Cluster               P163

NGC 2237                    Diffuse Nebula             C49 - Rosette Nebula

     - NGC 2238             Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of C49

     - NGC 2246             Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of C49

NGC 2244                    Open Cluster               C50, Herschel 400 H2-7

NGC 2250                    Open Cluster               P164

NGC 2251                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H3-8

NGC 2252                    Open Cluster               P91

NGC 2254                    Open Cluster               P165

NGC 2262                    Open Cluster               P231

NGC 2259                    Open Cluster               P232

NGC 2261                    Diffuse Nebula             C46 Hubble’s Variable Nebula

NGC 2264                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H27-5, H5-8 Christmas Tree Cluster

NGC 2269                    Open Cluster               P166

NGC 2286                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H31-8

NGC 2299                    Open Cluster               P167

NGC 2301                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H27-6

NGC 2309                    Open Cluster               P233

NGC 2311                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H60-8

NGC 2323                    Open Cluster               M50

NGC 2324                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H38-7

NGC 2335                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H32-8

NGC 2343                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H33-8

NGC 2353                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H34-8

NGC 2368                    Open Cluster               P235

NGC 2506                    Open Cluster               C54, Herschel 400 H37-6


Constellation: Orion

IC 434                          Diffuse Nebula            P92 Horsehead Nebula

NGC 1662                    Open Cluster               P39

NGC 1788                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H32-5

NGC 1976                    Open Cluster               M42 Great Orion Nebular Cluster

NGC 1977                    Open Cluster               P40 Running Man Nebular Cluster

     - NGC 1973             Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of P40

     - NGC 1975             Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of P40

NGC 1980                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H31-5

NGC 1981                    Open Cluster               P41

NGC 1982                    Diffuse Nebula             M43 DeMairan Nebula

NGC 1999                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H33-4

NGC 2022                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H34-4

NGC 2023                    Diffuse Nebula             P93

NGC 2024                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H28-5 Flame Nebula

NGC 2039                    Open Cluster               P94

NGC 2068                    Diffuse Nebula             M78

NGC 2071                    Diffuse Nebula             P42

NGC 2112                    Open Cluster               P170

NGC 2141                    Open Cluster               P171

NGC 2143                    Open Cluster               P172

NGC 2169                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H24-8

NGC 2175                    Open Cluster               P43

     - NGC 2174             Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of P43

     - IC 2159                 Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of P43

NGC 2186                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H25-7

NGC 2194                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H5-6


Constellation: Taurus

Messier 45                  Open Cluster               M45 Pleiades

Caldwell 41                 Open Cluster               C41 Hyades

IC 1995                        Diffuse Nebula          P64

NGC 1514                    Planetary Nebula        P120

NGC 1554                    Diffuse Nebula           P200 Von Struve’s Lost Nebula

NGC 1555                    Diffuse Nebula           P201 Hind’s Variable Nebula

NGC 1647                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H8-8

NGC 1750                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H43-8

NGC 1807                    Open Cluster               P65

NGC 1817                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H4-7

NGC 1952                    Diffuse Nebula             M1 Crab Nebula


For more information:

Northern Latitudes:’s+Up


Equatorial Latitudes:


Southern Latitudes:



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