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Jupiter dazzles with best show of year

Jupiter dazzles with best show of year

ColumnHead-StargazingThis is the time of year when some ask “What was the Star of Bethlehem”? Was there a recorded astronomical event that could explain it? i.e., a super nova, a comet, the planet Venus in opposition, a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, or a conjunction of Jupiter (the King of planets) and the star Regulus (king of stars!) to herald the birth of a king? These are all proposed theories, none proven.

In this season’s sky however, the brilliant and luminous Venus has been a startling sight in the Southwest at dusk. On January 11, it passes between the Earth and the Sun and transitions from the evening to the morning sky.

Jupiter, on the other hand, dazzles us with its brilliance all night long putting on its best show of the year. It reaches its closest proximity to the Earth on January 5, shining at -2.7 magnitude, brighter than Sirius (the sky’s brightest star) as it sits in the middle of Gemini near the giant constellation Orion. Using binoculars, some of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons can be observed as tiny ‘stars’ on either side of the planet. This discovery astounded Galileo when he viewed them through his crude telescope in 1610, and changed the world. We found out we are not the centre of the Universe!

Look for Sirius off Orion’s left foot: a brilliant object in Canis Major. Orion will dominate the sky all winter with his distinctive three star belt.

The Quadrantid meteor shower will radiate out of the sky in the vicinity of the Big Dipper, climaxing January 3, a moonless night.

The next meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society is Friday, January 10th at 7:30 p.m. at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre. Club president Mike Bradley will demonstrate “How to Make a Solargraph”, a pinhole camera used to track the movement of the sun across the sky from season to season. Attendees will be shown how to make their own pinhole camera from a beverage container. Everyone is welcome! See more details on our website

Astro Café, Friday, January 17 at Pier 17! Bring your telescope, binoculars or astro gadgets.

Submitted by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Sunshine Coast Centre

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