Clyde Tombaugh was born on this day in 1906 in Streator, Illinois. With a strong amateur interest in astronomy, he was employed at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona to look for the unknown Planet X. When he made the discovery the new object was considered to be the ninth planet in the solar system.
The large constellation of Vela the Sails is high in the southern sky, above the Southern Cross in the early evenings. It is one of the three pieces into which the giant constellation Argo the Ship was split in the 19th century.
By about 10 pm summer time the bright star Canopus is almost directly overhead. It is the brightest star in the constellation of Carina the Keel and the second brightest star in the sky. Although only a little hotter than our Sun it is likely be big enough to contain half a million stars the size of the Sun.
At 8:38 am this morning the Moon is new, that is, it is in the same direction as the Sun and so it is not visible to us. This is the second new Moon this month as there was also one on 1 January. The second full Moon in a month is called a blue Moon, but there is no name for a second new Moon.
Orion the Hunter is high in the north-east sky in the early evening. There are lots of bright stars surrounding Orion. Due east and to the right of Orion is Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Below Sirius is Procyon, the brightest star in the constellation of Canis Minor, the Little Dog.
Filaments and flares associated with sunspot AR11921. Sketch and copyright Harry Roberts ©, all rights reserved The most exciting feature of sunspots is the solar flare – an abrupt brightening in a spot group to more than twice background brightness.
January is not an ideal time to look at the Southern Cross in the early evenings for it is low in the southern sky. Those who stay up late at summer parties will get a progressively better view with the cross vertical and high in the southern sky just before dawn.
Last month the cloud-covered planet Venus shone brightly in the evenings, but now it is visible in the mornings before sunrise in the east. Through a telescope it is seen as a thin crescent that will grow thicker over the next few months.
To help you learn about the southern night sky, Sydney Observatory provides an audio guide/podcast, transcript of that audio, and a sky map or chart each month. This month's guide is presented by Melissa Hulbert, Sydney Observatory's Astronomy Education Officer.
Castor, one of the two bright stars of Gemini the Twins, is low in the north-east in the evenings. It is a most unusual star. A telescope shows it as a double star, but each of these stars in turn is a very close double.
The ringed planet Saturn can be seen in the mornings in the eastern sky before dawn. Those who prefer to view the planet in the evenings will need to wait three months until late April before it becomes an early evening object.
American astronomer Harold Babcock was born on this day in 1882 in the small town of Edgerton, Wisconsin. Almost all of Babcock’s working life was spent at Mount Wilson Observatory, which is just outside Los Angeles.
In the early evening, from a dark spot away from city lights, you can notice an area of extra brightness in the Milky Way above the Southern Cross. This is a giant region of gas and dust surrounding the massive star Eta Carinae.
John Dobson with Sydney Observatory’s Dobsonian telescope on 20 March 2003. Photo Nick Lomb Last Wednesday, 15 January 2014, famous amateur astronomer John Dobson passed away in Burbank, California at the grand old age of 98.
Early risers can see the red planet Mars high in the north-east sky before dawn. Tomorrow morning the gibbous Moon approaches the planet; it is above and to the left or north of Mars, while on Friday morning the Moon, now at last quarter phase, is above and to the right or east of the planet.