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skythismonth
The Sky This Month: Earth’s January orbit closest to sun

On Jan. 4, the earth is closer to the Sun than at any other time of the year. But don’t think it’ll be warmer — here’s why.
Before the 17th century, it was thought that planets and other objects had circular orbits around the Sun. Then Johannes Kepler discovered orbits were actually elliptical. That means there are points along the orbit that is closest and furthest from the sun.
Comet ISON for example, had an elongated elliptical orbit and passed extremely close to the sun. That’s why it fried.
However, the Earth is the only planet with an almost circular orbit.
Even though on Jan. 4 we’re about two million kilometres closer to the sun, at a distance of 147 million kilometres it’s not close enough to warm our world.
The average distance to the sun throughout the year is 149 million kilometres.  It’s ironic that we’re furthest from the sun on July 4 at 152 million kilometres.
Here are January stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar, which is currently on sale.
Planet watching
Mercury can be seen mid-month in the western evening twilight sky. At the beginning of the month, Venus can be seen low in the southwest evening twilight sky. On Jan. 11, it’s between the Earth and the Sun then reappears in the southeast dawn sky on Jan. 18. Mars rises around midnight. Saturn is seen in the dawn sky.
Jan. 5: Jupiter is closest to Earth for 2014 and rises in the east at sunset and sets in the west at sunrise.
Jan. 10: Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m., Hamilton Spectator, 44 Frid St. Free admission with door prizes and everyone is welcome. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods will be collected. Guest speaker will be Steve Germann, who will discuss the SkyStopper equatorial platform.
Jan. 14: The moon is below Jupiter in the evening sky.
Jan. 15: The full moon is the smallest for 2014.
Jan. 22: The moon is close to Spica and Mars after midnight.
Jan. 25: The moon is below Saturn in the early morning sky.
Jan. 28: Mars is near Spica for the next week. The moon is near Venus low in the eastern dawn sky.
Jan. 31: Mercury is at its greatest elongation from the Sun and is easier to see close to the crescent moon in the southwest evening sky.
For more information, please see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at amateurastronomy.org or call 905-627-4323. If you would like to learn more about the night sky, the club offers a basic astronomy course for new members.
Mario Carr, the author of this report, is the club’s director of public education and appears on CHCH-TV to talk about the night sky. He can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca.

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