A Total Eclipse of the Moon
The astronomical highlight this month will be a spectacular total
eclipse of the Moon visible from North and South America on the night of
January 20/21. (Western Europe and Africa will see part of the eclipse
before the Moon sets.) On this night the shadow of the Earth will appear
to gradually sweep across the face of the Full Moon.
The eclipse starts at 10PM EST(USA) January 20th (3:00 UT on January
21st) when the Moon enters the darkest part of the Earth's shadow (the
umbra). There will be a darkening of the Moon on one side that will
slowly sweep across its face over the next hour until 4:05 UT when the
Moon will lie completely within the Earth's shadow.
During totality the Moon will glow with a distinct red color. This red color is due to
sunlight being refracted into the Earth's shadow by its own atmosphere.
Totality lasts until 5:22 UT at which time the Moon will start to leave
the umbra. The eclipse ends at 6:25 UT. Don't miss it!
Jupiter and Saturn Ride High
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The planets Jupiter and Saturn are located high in the evening sky this
month. Jupiter is the brighter of the two shining like a brilliant
beacon. A look through a small telescope or powerful binoculars will
reveal four "stars" lined up on either side of Jupiter's disc. However,
they are not stars at all but Jupiter's largest moons, first seen by
Galileo in 1610.
A view of the planet Saturn through a telescope is one of the most
spectacular sights in the entire sky. Saturn's broad rings can be seen
even in a small telescope. They are made up of icy lumps no larger than
a few meters.
There are many celestial objects visible in the sky every night of the
year. Some of the brighter objects are shown on this month's sky map and
briefly described on the accompanying page. Some can be seen with the
unaided eye, while others require binoculars or a telescope. Approach your
local astronomy club to find out about their next viewing night. It's
worth the effort just to see Jupiter and Saturn through a telescope!