What’s up in Tuarangi

KNOW YOUR NIGHT SKIES : THE WEEK'S NIGHT SKY

OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

Enjoy the night sky each week, as we give you the latest on stargazing.

SEE WITH THE NAKED EYE 

The only visible planet this month is Mars. Look for it in Aries. 

  • The Sun is in the zodiacal constellation of Sagittarius.
  • The Moon’s is currently a Waxing Crescent. Next Full Moon will be on Friday, January 29th. 
  • Mercury is in Capricornus. Is 181 million kilometres from Earth, about 10 light minutes away.
  • Venus is in Sagittarius, visually very close to the Sun. Is at 240 million kilometres from Earth or about 13 light minutes away.
  • Mars is visually in the zodiacal constellation Aries, at a distance of 152 million kilometres, or just about 8 light minutes away, visible at night.
  • Jupiter is in the constellation of Capricornus at a real distance of 905 million kilometres or about 50 light minutes from Earth.
  • Saturn is visually in Capricornus, very close to Jupiter and 1639 million kilometres away or 1.5 light-hours away.

SEE WITH BINOCULARS AND TELESCOPE

  • Uranus is in Aries. It has a visual magnitude of +5.7 so under a very dark sky and if you have amazingly good eyes you might be able to see it with the naked eye. It’s 18 times further away from the Sun than the Earth. Light from Uranus travels for two and a half hours to reach our eyes here on Earth. We cannot see details on Uranus with a telescope on Earth.
  • Neptune is in Aquarius. It’s 29 times further away from the Sun than the Earth. Light takes approximately 4 hours to reach us from Neptune. At a visual magnitude of +7.9 you will need binoculars or telescopes to see it. From this distance, a telescope on Earth cannot see details of on the planet.
  • Pluto in Sagittarius is very close to Jupiter. We cannot see Pluto with the naked eye, as it has a magnitude of +14.4. 34 times further away from the Sun than the Earth, it takes light more than 4 hours and a half to reach us from Pluto. From this distance, a telescope on Earth cannot see details on the dwarf planet.

Of course, none of the planets make light of their own, what we see are the features of each planet illuminated by the light from the Sun that gets reflected by our Solar System companions.

After dark adaptation and under the very best observing conditions, the average limiting magnitude of the human eye is about magnitude 6.5.

IN JANUARY

After sunset, Milky Way’s centre has sunken under the western horizon. The bulk of our galaxy is now visually too close to the Sun and we cannot see it at night. However, in the circumpolar region, the Small Magellanic Cloud is in a good position to observe. Close to it, 47 Tucanae is one of the most beautiful and large globular clusters that adorn the night sky. 47 Tucanae is the second brightest globular cluster in the sky and one of the most massive clusters in the Galaxy. It’s angular diameter is roughly the size of the full Moon, that is the width of your pinky at arm’s length. It can be seen with the naked eye from Earth although it is far far away, about 13,000 light years from Earth.

The three famous crosses of the southern sky, the Southern Cross, Diamond Cross and the false cross are starting to climb up from the horizon. The best to observe with a pair of binoculars or telescope is the False Cross. Also this time of the year Orion is high up in the sky. 

We can see with the naked eye the brightest – Sirius, second brightest – Canopus and third brightest star in the sky – Alpha Centauri. 

Some notable deep sky objects this month are M42, Southern Albireo, Southern Pleiades, M41 and Sculptor Galaxy .

Bright Objects

Canopus, second brightest star in the sky is getting higher above the horizon and Sirius, the brightest star in the sky is well just above the horizon after sunset.  

The northern horizon is dominated by Orion, the Hyades and the Pleiades star clusters. 

Mars is in the north western part of the sky, shimmering orange. 

ASTRONOMY ON TAP

If you wish to attend a detailed presentation about the night sky, come every first Tuesday of the month to Astronomy on Tap. During these evenings we extend our live sky presentation and go deeper into space. This is a great opportunity to share thoughts and findings with other people interested in space over a refreshments and nibbles.

RESOURCES

There are beautiful objects you can see in the night sky, some are circumpolar and some are seasonal.

  • An in-depth look at the area between the Southern Cross and the Magellanic Clouds here.
  • Binocular Objects between Southern Cross and the Diamond Cross here.
  • If you wish to see how would it be to fly through Matariki watch this video.

From Wellington it is always a great time to learn the main asterisms (groupings of stars) that make the main constellations since our light pollution does allow us to observe only the brightest stars.

You can also observe craters on the Moon – here is a comprehensive map of it by Google Moon.

THE MOON

On average, the Moon rises or, if it’s already in the sky, sets about 50 minutes later than the previous day, every day.

New Moon: Friday, February 12th, 08:05:52AM

First Quarter: Thursday, January 21st, 10:01:45 AM 

Full Moon: Friday, January 29th, 08:17:33 AM

Last Quarter: Friday, February 5th, 06:37:16AM 

Data compiled with Sky Safari Pro

LAST WORD FROM SPACE PLACE

Keep an eye out for our astronomy and space courses coming up, details are in our What’s On section.

At Space Place, we open our telescope for viewings every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night if the weather is on our side. Alternatively, the planetarium live shows is a great place to see our current night skies.  Let us know how it went, or if you have any questions by visiting our Facebook.

Clear skies from our team!

OPENING HOURS

Tuesday: 4pm – 11pm

Friday: 4pm – 11pm

Saturday: 10am – 11pm

Sunday 10am – 5pm.

Last entry is 30 mins before close.

Our team of Space educators are exciting young minds and helping to build our future in space exploration. We teach early childhood up to year 13 students.

School bookings available Monday-Friday during school hours, 9am-2.30pm.

ADMISSION PRICES

Adult: $14

Gold Card Holder / NZ Student (NZ ID required): $12

Child (4-16 years): $9

Preschool Child (0-3 years): Free

Family (2 adults and up to 3 children): $45

Friends of Museum Wellington: Free

Please note that children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Bookings are essential for all schools and tour groups.

PARKING

Parking is available at Skyline car park, located on Upland Road (charges apply). There are limited parking spaces outside Space Place reserved especially for mobility permit holders.

CONTACT US

HOW TO FIND US

40 Salamanca Rd, Kelburn, Wellington 6012 located at the top of the Cable Car, just a short stroll from the terminus.

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