By David L. Richards
Jupiter will dominate the night sky in January, setting at 8:18 a.m. on the first.
In the early morning hours during the month, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn will be spread evenly across the ecliptic, the path marking the sun’s apparent movement across the sky.
The plane of the solar system is fairly flat, so you will always find the planets within about 6 degrees of the ecliptic. On Jan. 1, Jupiter’s setting will be followed by Mars’ at 12:20 p.m. and then Saturn’s at 2:03 p.m. Venus will remain brilliant, setting at 6:27 p.m. On Jan. 2, Venus will lie about 7 degrees above the not quite 2-day-old sliver of the waxing crescent moon on the west-southwest horizon at dusk. You might need binoculars to spot the crescent.
The new moon has been spotted when only 15 hours old, but is usually not visible until at least one day has passed. At month’s end — also at dusk — the tiny sliver of the day-and-a-quarter old moon will lie within 6 degrees of Mercury on the west-southwest horizon.
On Jan. 16, the smallest full moon of 2014 will occur, as our natural satellite will be 250,297 miles distant. It will be the largest in August when it will be only 221,765 miles away. On Jan. 15, Jupiter and the moon will travel together across the heavens, as will the moon and Mars on Jan. 23 and the moon and Saturn on Jan. 25.
The Quadrantid meteor shower will peak in the early morning hours of Jan. 3 and Jan. 4. While up to 60 meteors an hour can be observed, the window of opportunity is only a few hours long. Good luck catching it.
Q: Are there any eclipses that we can see this year?
— R.J., Dover
A: Yes — it’s a good year for eclipses. On April 15, a total lunar eclipse will begin about midnight and last until about 5 a.m. You will have to visit the Antarctic to see the April 29 solar eclipse, but we can see a partial solar eclipse beginning about 4:45 p.m. Oct. 23. It will continue until sundown, when the moon will cover about a third of the sun. Remember the warnings about viewing a solar eclipse. Another lunar eclipse can be seen in its entirety beginning at 4 a.m. Oct. 8.
At the planetarium
Starting Thursday, the Hoover-Price Planetarium will present The Universe at Large, its new program for 2014.
Along with the current sky, the planetarium will be presenting and constantly updating material to reflect new discoveries, astronomical events and NASA’s ventures. The program will be shown at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.
David L. Richards is director of the Hoover-Price Planetarium at the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, 800 McKinley Monument Drive NW, Canton, OH 44708, www.mckinleymuseum.org. He can be reached at 330-455-7043 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.