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    Articles > January 2003
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The Night Sky Planisphere

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  Sky Calendar -- January 2003
A BRIGHT NEW COMET is visible in the morning sky. In early January northern skywatchers can spot Comet Kudo-Fujikawa (C/2002 X5) before dawn in the east. Use binoculars or a telescope to look below the constellation Hercules, and below and to the right of the bright star Vega. Look for a 5th to 6th magnitude diffuse glow. The comet will be closest to the Sun on 29 January 2003 (a close 0.19 AU) and is expected to brighten significantly, possibly becoming visible to the unaided eye. Skywatchers in the southern hemisphere will need to wait until early February for the comet to move into view, by which time it should put on a fine display in the evening sky.
2 New Moon at 20:23 UT. Beginning of lunation 990.
4 Earth at Perihelion (closest to Sun) at 5h UT.
5 Saturn passes in front of the Crab Nebula (M1). Because the light from Saturn is many thousand times brighter than M1, the glare from Saturn will almost certainly prevent M1 being seen. The event can be observed from the Americas on the night of January 4-5. The following night Saturn's largest moon, Titan (mag. 8), will cross the nebula. At present, Saturn is at its very best through a telescope because the planet is unusually close to Earth and its rings are fully tilted (27°).
10 First Quarter Moon at 13:15 UT.
11 Moon at apogee (furthest from Earth) at 1h UT (distance 404,343 km; angular size 29.6').
11 Venus at greatest elongation, 47° west of the Sun. Venus appears as a brilliant white beacon in the predawn southeast sky (magnitude ­4.4).
15 Moon near Saturn at 20h UT.
18 Full Moon at 10:48 UT. The full Moon of January is called the "Old Moon" or the "Moon After Yule" in old almanacs.
19 Moon near Jupiter at 15h UT (magnitude ­2.6).
23 Moon at perigee (closest to Earth) at 22h UT (distance 36,899 km; angular size 32.3').
25 Last Quarter Moon at 8:33 UT.
27 Moon near Mars at 15 UT (magnitude +1.3). Occultation visible from southern Pacific Ocean and southern parts of South America.
28 Moon near Venus at 18 UT (morning sky).
All times in Universal Time (UT). (USA Eastern Standard Time = UT ­ 5 hours.)

Clear skies till next month!

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