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Axarquia, Costa del Sol, Andalucia, Spain

NIGHT SKIES

Events during January
· The Earth is at perihelion (147 million kilometres - its closest to the Sun) on the 3rd January.

· An annular eclipse of the Sun, visible from Africa, the Indian Ocean and Asia on the 15th.

An annular eclipse occurs when the new moon passes in front of the Sun but the Moon is near Apogee, its most distant point in its orbit around Earth. During apogee the Moon does not appear large enough to block out the entire Sun and therefore a small ring of light from the Sun is seen around the Moon. Annular eclipses are not safe to view without proper eye protection.

On January 15th, the eclipse will begin in Africa in Chad and Somalia, cross the Indian Ocean and the southern tip of India, and then cross the Bay of Bengal heading into China.

· Mars is at opposition on the 29th.

· The Moon: New - 15th, Full - 30th.
Apogee (406,430 kilometres) - 17th, Perigee (358,680 kilometres) - 1st and (356,590 kilometres) - 30th.
If you look at the Full Moon on the early morning of the 30th, it will look particularly brilliant because its at perigee (its closest point to the Earth) at 356,590 kilometres (221,580 miles). Every month there is a Full Moon and a Perigee but they do not often coincide plus this is the closest perigee of 2010. Early on the 30th the Moon will be in Cancer just below Mars, with the red planet less than a day past opposition.

Anniversaries during January
· January 7th 1610 is the date attributed to Galileo Galilei's discovery of the four largest moons around Jupiter. 2010 marks the 400th anniversary of that discovery. Observers can spot the moons with a pair of binoculars or a telescope, or sometimes with the naked eye. Focus on bright Jupiter early in January before it starts to set with the Sun. The four moons, seen as small points of light circling it, are Io, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa.

Mercury
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Mercury passes through inferior conjunction on January 4th, then moves rapidly west of the Sun reaching greatest western elongation of 25º on January 27th.

For observors in equatorial and southern latitudes, Mercury is visible low in the eastern sky in the early morning for the last two weeks of January when it increases from +0.4 to -0.1 magnitude.

The best times to observe Mercury in the northen hemisphere are when it is an evening star in the spring and a morning star in the autumn. In midsummer the lighter skies make visibility difficult near the horizon.

Venus
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Venus passes through superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun on January 11th when its distance from Earth is 256 million kilometres. The planet is too close to the Sun to be visible during January.

Transit On the 8th June 2004, Venus was at inferior conjunction and transited the sun. Transits of Venus are rare, taking place at greater than 100 year intervals and usually in pairs. The last two transits of Venus were in 1874 and 1882. June's transit began at 7.20h and lasted 6 hours until 13.20h, the total event visible from Europe as a small black disc crossing the lower part of the Sun from left to right. The next transit will be in late June 2012. After that, transits of Venus won't occur again until 2117 and 2125.

Before and after inferior conjuction, when Venus is the closest it comes to the Earth, are the times at which the planet is most brilliant and can be seen setting or rising 4 hours after or before the Sun. The dates of the next two inferior conjunctions are October 28th 2010 and October 26th 2018.
Mars
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Mars Click for more information
Rising in the early evening and visible all night, Mars has been moving retrograde since December 20th. During January, Mars passes from Leo into Cancer. At a distance of 99.3 million kilometres, the planet is at its closest for the year to Earth on 27th January and reaches opposition on the 29th. At this time Mars´ north pole is tlted towards Earth, it has a magnitude of -1.3 and an apparent disk of 14.1 seconds of an arc.

At opposition on the 28th August 2003, Mars was only 56 million kilometres from the Earth. It showed a disc of 25.1 seconds of arc across which is almost as large as it can ever appear. Mars started 2003 at 310 million kilometres from the earth at 4.5 seconds of arc and 1.6 magnitude. By opposition it brightened 50 times to reach -2.9 magnitude but faded to 0 magnitude by December. Even to the naked eye Mars was a striking object in the summer and autumn sky, easily identifiable by its reddish hue in an area of sky poor in bright stars. Mars will not be as close again until 2018.

These favourable oppositions occur every 15 or 17 years but other oppositions occur at average intervals of 2 years 2 months during which time the planet makes a complete circle of the Earth. In general Mars is observable every other year, being too close to the sun for favourable conditions during other times. Brightness at opposition varies from -1.0 to -2.9 magnitude, and when furthest from the earth it fades to 1.7 magnitude. The planet can be identified by its orange-red colour.

As in 2003, Mars comes nearest to the Earth at oppositions at the end of August. At these times it can be brighter than Jupiter, although low in the sky in Aquarius for northern observors. In the northern hemisphere, the planet may be better seen at oppostions during autumn and winter months when it is higher in the sky.

Jupiter
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Jupiter Click for more information
At magnitude -2.1, Jupiter is still a very bright object visible in the western sky during early evening. During January, Jupiter moves from Capricorn into Aquarius.

Varying from 603 (at its closest) to 770 million kilometres from the sun, the difference in brightness between opposition and conjunction varies less than with Mars, from about -2.9 to -1.8 magnitude. Always a bright planet, Jupiter comes to opposition a month later each year, moving approximately from one zodiacal constellation to the next.

The 4 largest moons of Jupiter are easily visible through a small telescope, ranging from 4.6 to 5.6 in magnitude. The innermost, Io, takes 1.8 days to orbit the planet making its motion easily detectable within a few minutes.

Saturn
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Saturn Click for more information
Saturn remains in Virgo at +0.8 magnitude rising about 01.00h. After reaching the 1st stationary point on January 14th, the motion becomes retrograde.

Following the ring-plane crossing in September 2009, Saturn´s rings have been gradually opening again, displayed at an angle of 4.8º at the beginning of January, and visible in a small telescope.

Saturn moves more slowly than Jupiter and can remain in the same constellation for several years. The brightness of the planet depends on the aspect of its rings, as well as its distance from Earth and the Sun.

The planet crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere in 1996 where it will remain until 2010 with the southern side of the ring system facing the earth. Because of its distance, its brightness varies little between opposition and conjunction but is affected by the huge ring system. Seen edge on the rings contribute little or no light.

Every 15 years the plane of Saturn's rings passes through the sun, illuminating first the north and then the south side. For a few days the rings are edge on to the sun. About the same time the Earth passes through the ring plane and, depending on the Earth's position, this may happen just once or 3 times. During 1995/96 there was a triple crossing and the next will be 2038/39. The next single crossings will be in 2009 and 2025.

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is visible in small telescopes orbiting outside of the ring system.

Uranus
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Uranus Click for more information
Brightness varies slightly, reaching a maximum of +5.6 magnitude at opposition. This is bright enough to see with the naked eye but identifying it against the stars is difficult. At closest approach, Uranus is 2,856 million kilometres (1,775 million miles) from Earth.
Neptune
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Neptune Click for more information
Neptune has an average magnitude of 7.9 which varies little with changing distance. At its closest, Neptune is 4,341 million kilometres (2,697 million miles) from Earth.
Pluto
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Pluto Click for more information
No longer an offical planet and never brighter than +13 magnitude, Pluto is only visible through powerful telescopes.
Moon
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of the Moon Click for more information
January
Last quarter: 7th
New moon: 15th
First quarter: 23rd
Full moon: 30th
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