The Sky This Week, January 17-23

“The Sky This Week” appears every Tuesday. It is written by Ian Clarke, Director of the Hatter Planetarium at Gettysburg College.  The planetarium offers regular educational presentations about the stars and the skies; there’s something for early elementary through adults. Field trip requests are welcome. NOTE: field trip request form for 2022-23 is now live. The spring 2023 schedule of free shows is available here. Images created with Stellarium.

We’ll take a break from our tour of bright winter stars and have a look at a planetary conjunction, a time when two (or more) planets come close to each other in the sky. On the evening of January 22, you can see a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. The two planets will be about one-third of a degree apart, or about a third of the width of a finger at arm’s length. Despite what this illustration shows, you will be able to separate the two with your unaided eye, even in the light of dusk. Binoculars will separate them further. Are the planets going to hit each other? No, it’s just a line-of-sight alignment. Saturn is many times farther away. As a bonus like for an extremely thin crescent moon below the pair, it will be only 26 hours passed new moon.

You may have heard about Comet C/2022E3 (ZTF), which will be reaching visibility in binoculars. I will write about it next week as it nears its brightest.

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Ian Clarke is the director of the Hatter Planetarium at Gettysburg College. In addition he has taught introductory astronomy labs and first-year writing there for over 30 years (not necessarily all at the same time). He was educated at Biglerville High School, the University of Virginia, and the University of Iowa. He lives in Gettysburg.

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