Skywatch: Planets and meteors will welcome the new year!
The first week of 2017 will start out with a planetary delight sure to please any stargazer.
On the night of January 1st you’ll be able to see Venus and Mars near the waxing crescent moon.
They will be above and to the left of the moon in the southwestern sky in the evening.
Venus will appear bright and Mars will be a little duller but still visible.
The moon will be higher in the sky and sandwiched between the two on Monday night and it will rise above the duo by Tuesday night.
Even though you’ll be able to catch this show the first three nights of the year Sunday looks like the best time to see it as less cloud cover is in the forecast that evening.
On Tuesday morning the Quadrantid meteor shower is predicted to peak.
If the clouds break and you’re far enough from the city look up and you may see some of it.
This meteor shower is predicted to peak at 10 A.M. Tuesday morning and it’s short and sweet so you won’t have a big window to see it.
If you look in the NE after midnight on the night of the 2nd you may catch a glimpse of it even though the best chance of seeing them will be about an hour before sunrise (which is a little before 8 A.M.) on Tuesday morning.
In the past, this shower has boasted 50-100 meteors per hour at its peak. The radiant will be near the Big Dipper which is pretty easy to find in the winter sky.
Earth will also reach its perihelion this week.
The word perihelion comes from the Greek words of “peri” meaning near and “helios” meaning sun.
No surprise this is the point of the year that the Earth is at the closest point in its orbit to our nearest star, the sun.
At 9:18 A.M. on Wednesday morning the Earth will “only” be about 91,400,000 miles from the sun.
This just underscores the fact that the Earth’s seasons are a result of the tilt of the planet, not distance from the sun as one may think because we’re closest to the sun during the coldest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Happy hunting!