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Waning Moon and Venus couple up before sunrise January 28

  • January 25, 2014


The brightest and second-brightest luminaries of nighttime – the moon and the planet Venus, respectively – will be putting on quite a show in the early morning hours on January 28 and 29. No matter where you live worldwide, get up some 90 to 60 minutes before sunrise. Look low in the southeast – or in the direction of sunrise – to observe the attractive morning couple.

Rising times for the sun, moon and Venus in your sky

If your sky is clear, there is no way to overlook Venus, the most brilliant of planets, in the predawn and/or dawn sky. Look first for the thin waning crescent moon, and then seek for the exceptionally bright star-like object in close vicinity to the moon. The moon and Venus are visible to the eye because these worlds reflect sunlight.

When can you see earthshine on a crescent moon?

Moreover, the moon and Venus show the whole range of phases in Earth’s sky. In fact, if you observe Venus in a telescope at dawn tomorrow (January 28), you’ll see that the crescent phase of Venus very much resembles that of tomorrow’s crescent moon.

Understanding moon phases

Yet, the crescent Venus is actually waxing toward full while the crescent moon is waning toward new. In fact, the moon will turn new on January 30, to usher in the second supermoon of January 2014. At that time, the moon will move out of the morning sky and into the evening sky.
Second supermoon of the month falls on January 30, 2014
Venus, on the other hand, won’t reach full phase until October 25, 2014. At this time, Venus will transition out of the morning sky and into Earth’s evening sky.
Be sure to catch the beautiful pairing of the moon and Venus before sunrise on January 28 and 29. Whereas the moon will leave the morning sky after a few more days, Venus will remain the dazzling morning “star” until October 2014.

Courtesy EarthSky

Images from China’s Chang’e moon mission

  • January 13, 2014

The mission set down on moon on December 14, 2013 at 9:12 p.m. Beijing time. China is the third country to land on the moon, after U.S. and former Soviet Union.

For some great images check out the link for EarthSky:

Best images from China’s Chang’e moon mission so far


Check out the video of SKYPi Online Observatory night sky!

  • January 4, 2014

Hello All!  Follow the link to see video of the night sky at our observatories in Pie Town, NM. Some of the clearest darkest sky in the U.S.!  If you click on “Recent Anomalies” under the video you will be able to see some meteors fly across the screen. Note:  You may have to have Quick Time to view.

The “Live” image on the left is our logo during daylight hours.

Earth closest to sun for the year on January 4, 2014

  • January 4, 2014

Our planet Earth reaches perihelion – its closest point to the sun for the year – on January 4, 2014. The word “perihelion” is from the Greek words peri meaning near, and helios meaning sun.

(click on the image to open)


Earth is closest to the sun every year in early January, when it’s winter for the Northern Hemisphere. We’re farthest away from the sun in early July, during our Northern Hemisphere summer. So you can see that Earth’s distance from the sun isn’t what causes the seasons. On Earth, it’s mostly the tilt of our world’s axis that creates winter and summer. In winter, your part of Earth is tilted away from the sun. In summer, your part of Earth is tilted toward the sun. The day of maximum tilt toward or away from the sun is the December or June solstice.

Are the December solstice and January perihelion related?
Earth is about 5 million kilometers – or 3 million miles – closer to the sun in early January than it will be in early July. That’s not a huge change in distance. It’s not enough of a change to cause the seasons on Earth.

(Click on the image for a larger view)


Though not responsible for the seasons, Earth’s closest and farthest points to the sun do affect seasonal lengths. When the Earth comes closest to the sun for the year, as now, our world is moving fastest in orbit around the sun. Earth is rushing along now at 30.3 kilometers per second (almost 19 miles per second) – moving about a kilometer per second faster than when Earth is farthest from the sun in early July. Thus the Northern Hemisphere winter (Southern Hemisphere summer) is the shortest season as Earth rushes from the winter solstice in December to the March equinox.

Latest sunrises also in early January for mid-northern latitudes
In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer season (June solstice to September equinox) lasts nearly 5 days longer than our winter season. And, of course, the corresponding seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are opposite. Southern Hemisphere winter is nearly 5 days longer than Southern Hemisphere summer.

It’s all due to the shape of Earth’s orbit. The shape is an ellipse, like a circle someone sat down on and squashed. The elliptical shape of Earth’s orbit causes the variation in the length of the seasons – and brings our closest point to the sun, in 2014 on January 4, at 12:00 Universal Time.
Courtesy EarthSky

Small asteroid entered our atmosphere on January 2, 2014

  • January 3, 2014

Astronomers say that a very small asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere on January 2, 2014, after being discovered only one day before. They’ve labeled the object 2014 AA, because it’s the first asteroid to have been discovered this year. The Minor Planet Center announced that the asteroid struck Earth’s atmosphere at around 05:00 UTC on January 2. That’s around midnight, early morning on January 2 on the U.S. East. The asteroid – which is believed to have been from about 1 to 5 meters across – is thought to have burned up over the Atlantic Ocean, probably off the coast of western Africa.

This is only the second time ever that astronomers were able to spot an asteroid before it struck Earth’s atmosphere. The first time was in 2008, when the object known as 2008 TC3 burned up over Sudan in Africa. Like 2014 AA, that object was discovered just a day before it entered Earth’s atmosphere.

Astronomers with the Mount Lemmon Survey used a 60-inch (150 cm) telescope in Arizona to spot 2014 AA on January 1, 2014 at 6:20 UTC (1:20 a.m. EST). Other astronomers quickly confirmed its presence. A calculation of the asteroid’s orbit showed it was very close to Earth, and getting closer.

According to astronomer Pasquale Tricarico, the asteroid approached the Earth from its night side. However, he said, there are large uncertainties over the time and location of the atmospheric entry of this asteroid, because only 7 observations were made while the asteroid was still visible.

Calculations by astronomer Bill Gray show that it could have entered the atmosphere between Africa and Central America.

No harm done. But the event underscores the need to watch out for near-Earth asteroids.

Bottom line: A small asteroid – probably 1-5 meters across – probably burned up over the Atlantic Ocean around midnight on the morning of January 2, 2014. Astronomers have labeled it 2014 AA.

By Deborah Byrd in EarthSky
BLOGS | EARTH on Jan 02, 2014