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skythismonth
THE SKY THIS MONTH: Get ready for a tale of two comets

2013 comet may be visible during day

Astronomically speaking, 2013 may not be as exciting as the past year, except we might see two bright comets — one which could even be bright enough to be seen during the day.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a comet during daylight hours. The last time was back in 1965.

This year, Comet ISON could be one of them, and experts say that its orbit is close to the Great Comet of 1680.

However, don’t get too excited just yet because comets have a way of being unpredictable and disappointing.

As comets orbit and move closer to the heat of the sun, their icy contents could either fizzle into oblivion or burst into brilliance.

If it puts on a bright show, it could be seen in late November.

But wait — we still have another comet, Comet PanSTARRS, might reach naked eye brightness in the western evening mid-March sky.

Here are January stargazer events.

Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar, which is still on sale (see www.amateurastronomy.org).

Planet watching

Mercury appears in the evening sky at the end of the month. Venus is in the eastern morning sky and is slowly dropping into twilight.

Mars is low in the southwestern evening twilight sky and moves eastward towards the end of the month. Jupiter is a bright object in the evening sky. Saturn can be seen in the dawn sky.

Uranus can be seen in the western evening sky and sets late evening. Neptune is low in the western early evening sky and disappears into twilight by the end of the month.

The Quadrantids meteor shower is best seen after midnight when it peaks on Jan. 3. Up to 40 per hour can be seen. It’s caused by debris from an extinct comet entering and burning in the atmosphere.

Jan. 2: Believe it or not, the earth will be closer to the sun, or at perihelion, than at any other time during the year.

Jan. 5: The last quarter moon is close to Spica in the morning sky.

Jan. 6: The moon is close and below Saturn in the morning sky.

Jan. 10: The thin crescent moon is close and above Venus low in the eastern predawn sky.

Jan. 11: Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m., Hamilton Spectator, 44 Frid St. Free admission with door prizes. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods will be collected. Special guest speaker is McMaster University astronomer Dr. Laura Parker.

Jan. 21: The moon is below and extremely close to Jupiter in the evening sky.

Jan. 26: The full moon this month is called the Wolf Moon.

For more information, please see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at www.amateurastronomy.org or call 905-627-4323. 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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