Astronomical Highlights for the week

Weather

Highlights

  • Mars, the crescent Moon, and Antares form a Triangle before dawn Monday and Tuesday mornings.
  • Venus continues to shine brightly in the southwest after sunset, appearing nearly 30 degrees above the horizon until about 8pm local time. You cant miss it, point it out to viewers!
  • Mon, Jan 20, astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will be outside the ISS again replacing batteries during a 6.5 hour spacewalk scheduled to begin 6:50 am EST. Look for coverage on NASA TV.
  • NASA bids farewell to the exoplanet hunting Spitzer Space Telescope. Engineers will decommission the spacecraft on Jan 30 after more than 16 years, continuing to use some instruments once the supply of liquid helium to cool the telescope was exhausted. From an Earth trailing heliocentric orbit, it made some of the first studies of atmospheres of planets around stars beyond our solar system, discovered five of the seven Earth sized planets around star TRAPPIST-1
  • Are your file photos of meteor showers getting stale? Add this photo of the Quadrantids taken by astronaut Christina Koch from the ISS.
  • Fri Jan 24 16:41:58: new moon
  • Sat Feb 01 20:41:39: first quarter moon

Upcoming Launches

·  Mon, Jan 10:00 AM JST (01:00 UTC) JAXA plans the launch of IGS Optical-7 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan

·  Tue, Jan 11:59 AM EST (16:59 UTC) SpaceX plans the launch of Starlink-4 from the Cape Canaveral AFS in Florida

·  Fri, Jan 01:00 PM MSK (10:00 UTC) Roscosmos plans the launch of Meridian-M from pad TBD at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northwestern Russia

·  Sat, Feb 03:37 AM +06 (21:37 UTC) Roscosmos plans the launch of OneWeb-2 (34x) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan

·  Sun, Feb 05:39 PM EST (22:39 UTC) Northrop Grumman plans the launch of CRS2 NG-13 (Cygnus) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (Wallops Island) in Virginia

·  Thu, Mar 10:33 PM -03 (01:33 UTC) Arianespace plans the launch of Falcon Eye 2 from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana

On This Day

  • Jan 19, 2001: A leak in the equipment cooling the Mars Odyssey orbiter’s spectrometer in a JPL cleanroom was noticed on a public webcam. The project manage was alerted and the mission saved as well as a lot of extra cleanup.
  • Jan 19, 2006: The New Horizons mission launches on a 9.5 year journey to Pluto.
  • Jan 20, 2006: Happy 90th birthday Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
  • Jan 20, 1986: Uranus’ moons Cordelia & Ophelia discovered by Rich Terrile
  • Kan 22, 1910: A 6.9kg meteorite fell on Vigarano, Italy. Its calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions found would aid in estimating the age of the solar system.

The crescent Moon, Mars and star Antares form a triangle in the southeastern sky before dawn Monday and Tuesday morning.

Near Earth Objects (NEO)

lunar distance (LD) is the mean distance to the moon ~239k miles. Anything within 1 LD is newsworthy. For more information see NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies

This week

object close approach date uncertainty LD million
miles
2020 AQ1 2020-01-20 02:45Z < 1 sec 10.4 ~2.55
2013 DU 2020-01-20 21:19Z < 1 sec 14.8 ~4
2020 BP 2020-01-21 17:14Z ~1 hour 3.7 <1
2020 BB 2020-01-21 17:49Z ~1 hour 2.0 ~0.55
2020 BN 2020-01-21 23:52Z ~1 hour 9.8 ~2.55
2020 BU 2020-01-22 06:18Z 1+ day 19.3 ~5
2019 TF2 2020-01-23 03:13Z ~1 hour 16.2 <4
2018 BM5 2020-01-23 23:15Z < 1 sec 13.1 3+
2020 AK3 2020-01-25 07:23Z ~1 hour 8.3 ~2
2018 AL12 2020-01-30 08:13Z ~10 days 18.1 ~4.55
2017 AE5 2020-02-01 08:18Z < 1 sec 13.6 3+
2018 BU1 2020-02-02 15:50Z 5+ days 19.3 ~5

Closest

within object close approach date uncertainty lunar distances million
miles
~14 days 2020 BB 2020-01-21 17:49Z ~1 hour 2.0 ~0.55
~1 year 2011 ES4 2020-09-01 16:12Z ~8 days 0.3 ~75,371.55 miles
~100 years 2010 RF12 2095-09-06 00:05Z 3+ hours 0.1 ~18,677.55 miles

Planet visibility

body (phase) rise transit (alt) set constellation
Mercury (95%) 08:08:37 13:03:15 (30°) 17:58:46 Capricornus
Venus (76%) 09:24:45 14:59:18 (41°) 20:32:25 Aquarius
Moon (1%) 06:42:27 11:26:38 (26°) 16:11:57 Sagittarius
Mars 04:12:08 08:53:21 (27°) 13:34:24 Ophiuchus
Saturn 07:02:31 11:47:33 (28°) 16:32:38 Sagittarius
Jupiter 06:16:46 10:55:17 (27°) 15:33:49 Sagittarius

Sample rise/set times for 01/23/20

Satellite Passes

This information is best used to identify passes worth sharing or skipping. Those nearest overhead are closest, brightest, and longest. Check dates and times for each pass before sharing.

International Space Station (ISS)

  • fair pass begins Mon 2020-01-20 18:34:35 EST from the SSW (210°) reaches 42°, enters Earth’s shadow 37° above the horizon 3 minutes later
  • outstanding pass begins Wed 2020-01-22 18:35:11 EST from the WSW (243°) reaches 64°, enters Earth’s shadow 33° above the horizon 4 minutes later
  • poor pass begins Fri 2020-01-24 18:36:30 EST from the W (273°) reaches 28°, enters Earth’s shadow 19° above the horizon 4 minutes later
  • below trees pass begins Sun 2020-01-26 18:38:18 EST from the WNW (301°) reaches 17°, enters Earth’s shadow 14° above the horizon 3 minutes later
  • below trees pass begins Tue 2020-01-28 18:40:12 EST from the NW (324°) reaches 13°, enters Earth’s shadow 12° above the horizon 2 minutes later

Atmospheric drag and other factors can and do cause orbits to change. See the European Space Agency supported Heavens Above for the latest pass predictions. Satellite pass gradings are based on altitude reached and duration of the pass. Higher altitude passes are closer to the observer and generally brighter as a result. Satellites other than ISS are much more difficult to spot.

Moon Phases

date phase
Fri 2020-01-24 16:41:58 new
Sat 2020-02-01 20:41:39 first quarter
Sun 2020-02-09 02:33:15 full
Sat 2020-02-15 17:17:11 last quarter

Sun

Sunrise/set

Date Rise Solar noon (alt) Set sunlight
Thu 2020-01-23 07:31 12:25 (30.07°) 17:20 9 hrs 49 min
Fri 2020-01-24 07:30 12:26 (30.31°) 17:22 9 hrs 51 min
Sat 2020-01-25 07:29 12:26 (30.55°) 17:23 9 hrs 53 min
Sun 2020-01-26 07:29 12:26 (30.80°) 17:24 9 hrs 55 min
Mon 2020-01-27 07:28 12:26 (31.06°) 17:25 9 hrs 57 min
Tue 2020-01-28 07:27 12:27 (31.32°) 17:26 9 hrs 59 min
Wed 2020-01-29 07:26 12:27 (31.58°) 17:28 10 hrs 1 min
Thu 2020-01-30 07:25 12:27 (31.86°) 17:29 10 hrs 3 min
Fri 2020-01-31 07:25 12:27 (32.13°) 17:30 10 hrs 5 min
Sat 2020-02-01 07:24 12:27 (32.41°) 17:31 10 hrs 7 min
  • gained 0:18:12.473779 (hh:mm:ss) of daylight over this period
  • daylight (HH:MM): 09:58
  • mean: sunrise 07:28 sunset 17:26
  • max: sun angle 32.41°

Twilight

date rise set
Thu 2020-01-23 05:54 18:56
Fri 2020-01-24 05:53 18:57
Sat 2020-01-25 05:53 18:58
Sun 2020-01-26 05:52 19:00
Mon 2020-01-27 05:52 19:01
Tue 2020-01-28 05:51 19:02
Wed 2020-01-29 05:50 19:03
Thu 2020-01-30 05:50 19:04
Fri 2020-01-31 05:49 19:05
Sat 2020-02-01 05:48 19:06

Covers Thu 2020-01-23 01:00 through Sun 2020-02-02 01:00 . Calculations are for Altoona, PA (40.4780,-78.4213) at an elevation of 341 m and are expressed in local (US/Eastern) time and a 24-hour clock.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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