Pictured is a scene from We Are Stars, a planetarium show appearing January 14 through February 27, and March 10 through March 26, at the MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium.
Star Gazers will View Some of the Brightest Stars of the Year this Month
BY JONATHAN TRUAX, ASTRONOMER, MUSKEGON COMMUNITY COLLEGE'S CARR-FLES PLANETARIUM
January skies offer sky watchers chances to enjoy some of the brightest stars of the year, view a meteor shower, and observe some very interesting planetary sights for those willing to brave the cold.
January sky watching opens with a bang as the Quadrantid meteor shower reaches its peak on the mornings of January 3 and 4. This shower, one of the best of the year, is rarely observed due to the cold and cloudy skies of winter. But if conditions are good, sky watchers can expect to see 40 meteors per hour radiating from a point near the handle of the Big Dipper.
Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., January 14 through February 27, and March 10 through March 26, 2020, the MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium presents We Are Stars. What are we made of? Where did it all come from? Explore the secrets of our cosmic chemistry, and our explosive origins. Connect life on Earth to the evolution of the Universe by following the formation of Hydrogen atoms to the synthesis of Carbon, and the molecules for life. Narrated by Andy Serkis. The program will be followed by a brief tour of the current night sky, using the planetarium.
During January mornings, the planet Mars is visible in the southeast about 45 minutes before sunrise. Locate Mars as a bright orange “star” west of Scorpius the Scorpion. Lower and closer to the southeast horizon locate the red star Antares of Scorpius. The waning crescent moon is very near Mars the morning of the 20th.
Sky watchers will easily locate the brilliant planet Venus in the southwest after sunset. Venus is second in brightness only to the moon in the night sky. During the nights of January 27 and 28 the waxing crescent moon is next to Venus in the sky, making a pretty sight.
Late in the month, locate Mercury as a fairly bright white “star” very low in the southwest about 30 minutes after sunset. The waxing crescent moon will be very close to Mercury on the evenings of January 25 and 26.
As darkness falls after sunset during January, the three bright stars of the Summer Triangle; Vega, Deneb, and Altair are low in the west. Looking low on the northeast, locate the “Big Dipper” formed by the stars of Ursa Major. High in the north, locate the “W” formed by the stars of Cassiopeia. High overhead, locate the bright yellow star Capella of Auriga, the charioteer. The winter constellation of Taurus can be seen high in the east, marked by the orange star Aldebaran. Look for the Pleiades star cluster, seen as a tiny “dipper” of stars, higher in the east. The waxing gibbous moon is very near the cluster the night of January 6.
Sky watchers can locate Orion rising low in the east at sunset. Look for three stars in a row, the famous “belt” of Orion. A couple hours after sunset use the “belt” stars pointing downward toward the southeast, to locate the bright blue-white star Sirius the brightest star in the Heavens.
Northeast of Orion is Gemini the twins, marked by the bright stars Castor and Pollux. The Full moon is close to the pair of stars the nights of the 10th and 11th.
The MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium presents free of charge “We Are Stars” Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., January 14 through February 27, and March 10 through March 26, 2020. Visit the MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium website for upcoming events and call (231) 777-0289 for sky show information. Carr-Fles Planetarium is located on the Muskegon Community College campus in Room 135. Thanks to the generosity of the Reach for the Stars campaign donors, you can now experience Carr-Fles Planetarium with state-of-the-art digital projection, sound and lighting systems; all-new library of shows; and modern theater seating and domed ceiling.