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5 Sky Events This Week: Ice Giant, Lunar Wonder, Ex-Comet Shower

The Straight Wall, or Rupes Recta, cuts across the face of the moon and is visible in small telescopes this week. Photograph courtesy JAXA/SELENE

The Straight Wall, or Rupes Recta, cuts across the face of the moon and is visible in small telescopes this week. Photograph courtesy JAXA/SELENE

Sky-watchers get a chance to see a giant lunar wall, hunt down a distant world, and the moon makes for a convenient guidepost in hunting down a distant planet.

Green Giant. Late night on Tuesday, January 7, the seventh planet from the Sun, Uranus, will pass near the moon. The green giant will appear about 9 degrees southwest from the moon—just shy of the width of your first at arm’s length. This week after darkness falls the near full moon acts as a convenient guidepost for finding Uranus.

The green-colored ice giant has four times the width of Earth, but since it lies nearly 1.9 billion miles (3.1 billion kilometers) away from Earth, it’s barely visible to the naked eye—and only in very dark, pristine skies.

With the glare from the nearby moon, binoculars will be your best bet in spotting Uranus. Just look for a tiny greenish-blue disk in the field of view. By the way, the absorption of red light by methane in the atmosphere is what gives Uranus its cool cyan coloring.

Lunar Straight Wall. The first quarter moon coming into view on Tuesday evening, January 7, is the best time of the month to view in small telescopes a striking lunar feature called the lunar wall. A fault line that stretches 75 miles (120 kilometers) in length and is more than 1,300 feet (400 meters) deep casts a distinct straight and dark line through your eyepiece. (Get a finder’s chart and read more about lunar wonders.)

Possible ISON Shower.  Starting on the night of Friday, January 10, look for a possible meteor shower left behind by ex-comet ISON.  While comet ISON may be history—breaking up as it swung by the sun back on November 28th last year—experts believe there is a small chance it may have left behind a trail of debris that could become visible to sky-watchers as shooting stars. According orbital models, Earth may slam into a meteor stream associated with comet ISON this week and that this one-off shower could last for a few nights.

Moon and Seven Sisters.  After nightfall on Friday, January 10, the waxing gibbous moon will pair up with the most famous star cluster in the entire sky, the Pleiades or Seven Sisters.

With up to seven stars visible to the naked eye in suburban skies, and scores more through binoculars, the Pleiades is 400 light years away and is one of the closest clusters to Earth. Try using binoculars to cut through the lunar glare to see details in this cosmic jewel box.

Moon and the Red Eye of Taurus. As dusk settles in on Saturday, January 11, look for the silvery moon to pose near the bright orange star Aldebaran in the southeast sky.

Earth’s natural satellite will appear only 3 degrees from the 68 light-year distant red giant—equal to the width of your three middle fingers at arm’s length.

 

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Comments

  1. roberto vasquez
    dswd
    January 14, 12:50 am

    haha

  2. kevin curran
    January 13, 3:21 am

    I saw a bright meteor yesterday in Leo, the constellation ISON is expected to produce its shower in.

    For more info on comets I’d check out http://www.fallofathousandsuns.com/

  3. Regula
    January 10, 8:10 am

    Remco it is part of a new star constellation, as the eastern sky should slowly start to give a mirror reflection of what most people think is Planet X.

  4. Regula
    January 10, 8:07 am

    Why are you calling this an ex-comet? Have you tracked? What “ex-comet” drastically changes trajectory? It is no longer heading to earth and is not slowly gaining speed. ISON is not dead. Stop listening to lies.

  5. carmencho
    chile
    January 7, 10:41 pm

    nada es nuevo bajo el sol,dijo un sabio.

  6. Sowing a Seed
    January 7, 8:01 pm

    So the answer is yes, you will be able to see this no matter where you live and you shouldn’t need a camera. Should be visible with the naked eye. If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior please make sure that you do before the next 5 days are up.

  7. Lydia
    Minnesota
    January 7, 5:29 pm

    I hope to see most of the 5 Sky Events especially Green Giant, the possible ISON Shower, and the moon and the Red Eye of Taurus.

  8. robert
    edo mex.
    January 6, 10:12 pm

    excelente informacion, y ademas con la ubicacion , no yhay excusa para no observar este espectaculo

  9. Remco F. Gerritsen
    Gouda, The Netherlands
    January 6, 6:09 pm

    Interesting to know there are yet another 5 events. Can’t wait to spot them. Sadly live in a suburban area (living of 10.000 people, so lot’s of light and no close bye open field) and don’t have a binocolairs or telescope, though do have a 1500x zoom camcorder and Tamron 18-270 mens….

    What I do wonder, for some weeks now, maybe because I am looking more at the sky now, I notice 5 stars standing exactly next to eachother, in a southwestern pattern. What is this?

    So like this:

    1
    2
    3
    4
    5

  10. Simon Roux
    South Africa
    January 6, 12:39 pm

    Will we be able to observe these 5 sky events giving our location and time zone? Please give some info on this matter. Thank you.

  11. yahtzee
    floridsa
    January 6, 12:28 pm

    this is a really @and it gives alot fo information