The New Year begins with a Supermoon on Jan. 1 as the full moon reachs its closest approach to earth (perigee) in 2018 (356,565 km) at 6:24pm. The Quadrantid meteor shower, which radiates out of the constellation Boötes (close to the Big Dipper) will peak at 1pm on Jan. 3 but unfortunately this is only two days after the Supermoon, flooding the sky with light that will partially obscure this display. Unlike the Perseids and Geminids, that span several days, the Quadrantid shower has a very narrow peak of just a few hours. On Jan. 6 and 7, Mars passes very close to Jupiter in the sky: within 20 arc minutes. By Jan. 11, Mars and Jupiter will be within only 2° of each other with the thin crescent moon only 4° away. On Jan. 13, Mercury and Saturn will only be separated by one-quarter degree. On Jan. 14, the moon reaches its furthest distance from the earth in 2018 (apogee: 406,459 km). The thin crescent moon will be near Saturn and Mercury in the morning Jan. 14 and 15. The second full moon in a month is referred to as a “blue moon” and the blue moon turns red on the Jan. 31 with the first total lunar eclipse in two-and-a-half years. People on the West Coast will have a front row seat as the eclipse begins at 2:49am PST. Midtotality occurs at 5:29am and the eclipse ends at 8:10am.
Jan. 12 at 7:30pm, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Centre presents RASC National Secretary Charles Ennis, whose topic will be: “the Messier list: a starting place for amateurs”. Charles will talk about how the Messier list has become the core of many amateur astronomer’s viewing experiences. The RASC’s Messier Observing Program is designed to assist the beginning astronomer to explore the sky and become familiar with the more common attractions of the night sky.
The Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC is now offering the Explore the Universe Observing Program to the public for free. This is open to both the public and members, and can be accomplished using nothing more complicated than binoculars. On completion you earn a certificate and observers pin. Contact the Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the national RASC site here for details: https://www.rasc.ca/explore-universe
Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.