Year of the dwarf planets

By Mario Carr

2015 will be remembered as the year of the dwarf planets.

Dwarf planet Pluto and its five moons will be revealed as the New Horizon space probe reaches it for a few hours on July 14. Travelling since 2006, the spacecraft will take hundreds of images before blasting to another object at the edge of our solar system.

The Dawn mission also reaches dwarf planet Ceres in April, orbiting a world that’s partly made of ice with plumes of water vapour erupting from its surface.

Here are January stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar, which is on sale at the next meeting.

Planet watching

Venus and Mercury can be seen low in the southwest early evening sky. Mercury will be easier to spot on Jan. 14. Mars is low in the southwest evening sky.

Jupiter rises in the northeast during early evening and Saturn is in the dawn sky. Uranus and Neptune are in the western evening sky.

Jan. 4 – The Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks. The Earth is closest to the Sun at 147,096,204 km.

Jan. 7 – The Moon is close to Jupiter in the late evening sky.

Jan.8-12 – Venus and Mercury are close to each other.

Jan. 9 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m., Spectator Building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton. Free admission with door prizes and everyone is welcome. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods will be collected. Guest speaker Damien Robertson discusses The Life and Times of Betelgeuse.

Jan. 16 – The Moon will be close to Saturn in the morning sky. If you have a telescope, you can see a double shadow transit on Jupiter. The shadows of Io and Europa cross the face of Jupiter at the same time 10:51-11:59 p.m.

Jan. 21 – The Moon forms a triangle with Mercury and Venus in the evening sky.

Jan. 22 – The Moon is above Mars in the evening sky.

Jan. 24 – If you have a telescope, you can see the rare triple shadow transit on Jupiter 1:28-1:52 a.m. Callisto, Io and Europa will all cast shadows on Jupiter at the same time. It won’t happen again until 2032.

For more information, see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at http://www.amateurastronomy.org or call (905) 627-4323. The club offers a basic astronomy course for members.

Mario Carr is the club’s director of publicity and can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca.

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About Mario Carr

Mario Carr has a Physics degree from McMaster University and hosts this blog. He is the director of public education for the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers and has helped to raise the profile of the group. He writes an astronomy column and appears on CHCH-TV to talk about the night sky. Mario is the founder of the Carr Marketing Group in Burlington, Ontario and can help with your marketing, communications, publicity and public relations needs. He can be reached at www.carrmarketinggroup.com or mariocarr@cogeco.ca.
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