By Mario Carr
If you’ve received a pair of binoculars for Christmas, you could see Comet Catalina just before dawn in the south eastern morning sky.
Catalina will appear higher in the sky each night and will be above the handle of the Big Dipper passing near galaxy M101 on January 16. The next night, on January 17, Catalina will make its closets approach to the Earth at 108 million kilometres. After that date, the comet will fade rapidly each night.
The comet is thought to be a first time visitor around the Sun arriving form the distant Ort cloud beyond the realm of Pluto. After its brief encounter near the Sun, it will be flung out of our solar system never to return again.
Also known as C/2013 US10, the comet was discovered on Halloween night in 2013 at the Catalina Observatory near Tucson, while searching for asteroids.
Here are January stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar, which is currently on sale.
Mercury can be seen in the evening western twilight sky January 1-9. Starting January 20, it can be seen in the eastern twilight morning sky. Venus is bright in the eastern morning sky. Mars and Jupiter rise late evening in the eastern sky.
Saturn can be seen in the eastern dawn sky. Uranus can be seen in the western evening sky setting late evening. Neptune can be seen low in the western evening sky.
January 2 – The Earth is closer to the Sun than at any other time of the year at 147,100,176 km.
January 3 – Mars is close to the Moon in the evening sky.
January 4 – The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks.
January 6 – Venus is close to the Moon in the eastern morning sky.
January 9 – Venus and Saturn are extremely close in the eastern morning sky.
January 15 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m., Spectator Building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton. Free admission, door prizes and everybody is welcome. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods will be collected and appreciated.
January 27 – Jupiter is close to the Moon in the evening sky.
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 email@example.com. Twitter: @MarioCCarr