THE SOLAR SYSTEM IN JANUARY 2021

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours). Rise and Set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ. Data is adapted from that shown by GUIDE 9.1.

THE SUN and PLANETS in JANUARY 2021, Rise & Set  Mag. & Cons.
          JAN 1        NZDT           JAN 31        NZDT  
      Mag  Cons    Rise    Set     Mag  Cons    Rise    Set
SUN  -26.7  Sgr   5.48am  8.59pm  -26.7  Cap   6.22am  8.44pm
Merc  -1.0  Sgr   6.14am  9.36pm    0.9  Cap   7.47am  9.14pm
Venus -3.9  Oph   4.25am  7.29pm   -3.9  Sgr   5.16am  8.05pm
Mars  -0.2  Psc   2.52pm  1.40am    0.4  Ari   2.10pm 12.19am
Jup   -2.0  Cap   7.38am 10.17pm   -2.0  Cap   6.16am  8.41pm
Sat    0.6  Cap   7.32am 10.13am    0.6  Cap   5.52am  8.26pm
Uran   5.7  Ari   3.38pm  2.11am    5.8  Ari   1.40pm 12.13am
Nep    7.9  Aqr  11.32am 12.19am    7.9  Aqr   9.37am 10.23pm
Pluto 14.6  Sgr   6.52am  9.52pm   14.6  Sgr   4.55am  7.54pm

              January 1  NZDT          January 31  NZDT
Twilights    morning     evening       morning     evening
Civil:    start 5.18am, end 9.31pm   start 5.54am, end  9.13pm
Nautical: start 4.35am, end10.14pm   start 5.16am, end  9.51pm
Astro:    start 3.44am, end11.04pm   start 4.34am, end 10.33pm

   Nov PHASES OF THE MOON, times NZDT & UT
  Last quarter:  Jan  6 at 10.37pm (09:37 UT)
  New Moon:      Jan 13 at  6.00pm (05:00 UT)
  First quarter: Jan 21 at 10.01am (Jan 20, 21:01 UT)
  Full Moon:     Jan 29 at  8.16am (Jan 28, 19:16 UT)

THE PLANETS in JANUARY 2021

MERCURY is an evening object during January but is likely to be unobservable during the month. It is at its greatest elongation from the Sun on January 24, when it sets some 51 minutes after the Sun. This is during the period of Nautical twilight when the western horizon is still bright.

VENUS is a morning sky object during January, rising over an hour before the Sun. As a result it will be low rather to the south of east in the morning twilight. On the morning of January 12 about 30 minutes before sunrise, the crescent moon will be just over 1° from Venus, the latter being a little under 8° above the horizon.

MARS sets after midnight during January, so remains readily visible in the evening sky. It continues to fade slowly during the month as its distance from the Earth increases. The planet moves from Pisces to Aries on the 5th, where it passes Uranus on the 21st. The two will be 1.8° apart, with the moon, at first quarter, 3.7° from Mars and the other side of Uranus. Moon, Uranus and Mars are almost in line at 9.30 pm half an hour after sunset.

JUPITER and SATURN remain close to one another, but they set just over an hour after the Sun at the beginning of January and virtually at the same time as the Sun on the 31st.

Saturn is at conjunction with the Sun on the 24th with Jupiter at conjunction on the 29th.

PLUTO falls further behind Jupiter in January. It is at conjunction with the Sun on January 15 (NZDT)

URANUS sets after midnight in January. Its line up with Mars and the moon on the 21st could give a chance to locate the planet, easily visible using binoculars.

NEPTUNE is an evening object but will set a little after 10 pm by the end of the month. This is 100 minutes after Sunset.

POSSIBLE BINOCULAR ASTEROIDS in January

                   Jan 1 NZDT          Jan 31 NZDT  
                Mag  Cons  transit    Mag  Cons  transit
 (1) Ceres      9.3   Aqr   5.46pm    9.3   Aqr   4.24pm
 (4) Vesta      7.1   Leo   6.09am    6.7   Leo   4.17am
 (8) Flora      9.5   Cet   9.01pm   10.1   Ari   7.36pm
(14) Irene      9.7   Cnc   3.34am    9.2   Cnc   1.10am
(15) Eunomia    8.9   Cnc   3.10am    8.8   Cnc  12.41am

CERES is an evening object best seen as soon once the sky is dark. It remains in Aquarius setting at 12.47 am on the 1st and 11.06 pm on the 31st.

VESTA is a morning object in Leo rising at 12.39am on the 1st and 10.54pm on the 31st. On the morning of January 5, Vesta will be less than half a degree from the moon as seen from NZ at about 1.45 am. Guide shows an occultation of the asteroid nominally visible from Antarctica, which will be sunlit.

FLORA, is an evening object but is likely to be lost to binocular view during the month. It sets shortly after midnight on the 31st.

IRENE and EUNOMIA, are both in Cancer, just under 10° apart on January 1, with the moon between them. The moon lies between the pair again on the 28th.

Both asteroids are well north of the celestial equator, especially Irene which will only be 20° up, as seen from Wellington, at transit on the 31st. Eunomia rises at just after 10 pm on the 1st, Irene an hour later.

Both are at opposition during January: Eunomia on the 20th at magnitude 8.5, Irene on the 27th magnitude 9.1.

 

Brian Loader

 

 

 

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