Weekly Stargazing Calendar for 2011-01-03

This week will be quite eventful. First of all, the Quadrantid meteor shower will peek on the night of January 3 to 4. The best viewing time will be after midnight. The Quadrantids are an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The meteors will radiate from the constellation of Bootes.

Another astronomical even that will take place on January 3 is Earth’s perihelion. This means that the Earth will be at its closest approach to the Sun for the entire year. The Earth will be at a distance of 147,098,074 km from the Sun as opposed the the average of 149,598,261 km.

On January 4 there will be a partial solar eclipse. It will be visible in most parts of northern Africa, Europe, and Asia.

As for the planets, here are their positions for this week:

Mercury: The closest planet to the Sun can be seen in the constellation of Ophiuchus at dawn and dusk. With Mars and Pluto it still forms a very elongated triangle stretching from Ophiuchus to Sagittarius (unfortunately you will not be able to see Pluto unless you have a telescope).

Venus: The sister planet can be seen close to the constellation of Libra. Just like Mercury, it can only be seen at dawn and dusk.

Mars: The red planet can be seen not too far from the Sagittarius constellation.

Jupiter and Uranus: The two gas giants are visible very close to each other between the constellations of Aquarius, Pisces and Cetus. Jupiter can easily be spotted with the naked eye, even in highly illuminated cities. However for Uranus you will need a telescope.

Saturn: The ringed giant can be seen with the naked eye in the middle of the Virgo constellation, not far from the bright star Spica.

Neptune: The blue giant requires a telescope pointed between the constellations of Aquarius and Capricornus in order to be seen.

As you know, the Moon has a big impact on the visibility of celestial bodies in the night sky. So here are the Moon’s phases for this week:

Jan. 3

Jan. 4

Jan. 5

Jan. 6

Jan. 7

Jan. 8

Jan. 9