January Skies: Showers, Moons and Launches


Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut, Martz
Kohl Board of Directors

Go Watch a Shower
January 1 through 5 – Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The Quadrantids is usually an above average shower, producing up to 40 bright meteors streaking across the night sky per hour at its peak. These showy night visitors are thought to be dust grains, pebbles and rocks left behind by a now extinct, dormant comet discovered in 2003, 2003 EH1. Though it usually runs from January 1 through 5, this year’s peak was predicted to be on the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. By January 5, a lucky viewer may still see a few bright surprises of sky conditions permit. The second quarter moon, however, may wash out out all but the brightest meteors this year.
January 10. The time of the New Moon, maybe better called the Invisible Moon. The Moon will slide into its position on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, so only its unlighted side will face us. For back yard stargazers and astronomers, the January 10 dark moon or the slim crescent moon a few days before and after this date make the best time to see faint objects like galaxies and star clusters without the interference of moonlight.
January 24. Full Moon. The Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. Its face is fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 01:46 UTC. Some Native American tribes called this the Full Wolf Moon. It brightens the sky and the landscape when hungry wolf packs howled at the moon outside their camps. Other names from European traditions call this the Old Moon and the Moon After Yule.

Space Launches
January 17. Jason-3 is scheduled to blast off aboard a SpaceX Palcon 9 rocket at 1:42 p.m. Eastern. This mission is led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is the latest in a series of U.S.-European satellite missions that have been measuring the height of the ocean surface for 23 years, following the possible consequences of climate change around the globe.
Follow events and NASA launches live at: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html.
Jan. 20. India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will launch its 5th navigation satellite from its Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India. This spacecraft is part of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, which aims to improve positioning services over India and neighboring regions.

Everything Else
The universe is divided into two parts. There is Planet Earth and then there is everything else. Jamestown Gazette readers are invited to visit the Martz/Kohl Observatory in Frewsburg and become a member of the association, open to everybody who wants to see everything else as you’ve never seen it before.
For a deeper look at the night sky, planets, stars and the entire universe, visit the Martz/Kohl Observatory online at martzobservatory.org, check the schedule of events and visit in person. Thank you to Hall and Laury Opticians for sponsoring these Martz/Kohl column.

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.