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Starstruck

5 Sky Events This Week: Green Giant, Lunar Triangle and Jovian Shadows

A planetary pairing and moon dances take center stage in the heavens this week.

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Io, Jupiter’s innermost moon, and its shadow were caught in 2004 by Cassini as it swung past the gas giant. This week skywatchers will get to see three of the gas giant’s moons cast their sillouettes simultaneously.


Neptune meets Mars this week for stargazers, while Jupiter's retinue plays shadow games.

Neptune and Mars. About an hour after sunset on Monday, January 19, look towards the southwestern sky for Venus and Mercury hanging near the horizon. Look higher up to see the ruddy beacon of Mars.

Telescopes trained on the red planet will reveal the very faint and tiny aquamarine disk of Neptune only 0.2 degrees north. The distant ice giant present quite a color contrast with ruddy Mars.

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A stunning celestial trio low in the southwest sky forms this week with the crescent moon, Venus and Mercury.


Lunar Triangle. Just after the sun sets on Wednesday, January 21, gaze towards the thin crescent moon, which rests low in the sky toward the western horizon.

Joining it in a stunning triangular formation, and particularly eye-catching through binoculars, are the two innermost planets in our solar system, Mercury and Venus.

The waxing moon acts as a wonderfully convenient guide to spotting these two worlds.

Moon meets Mars. On Thursday, January 22, Earth’s lone natural satellite rises higher in the sky and pays a visit to the red planet. The curl of the moon's crescent will almost seem to point to Mars, just off to its left.

And wait just one more day, on Friday, January 23, when the moon will continue its journey across the sky, climbing higher to form a straight line connection with Mars and Venus. The dawn star will hang below its two companions, just above the horizon.

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This skychart shows the moon pointing to Uranus in the early morning western sky.


Moon and Uranus. After night falls on Sunday, January 25, look for the moon pairing up with the seventh planet from the sun, Uranus.

The two solar system objects will reside only 7 degrees apart, making them just fit into the same field of view in binoculars.

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Look for Jupiter in the early morning southeast sky and with a telescope soak in a triple Jovian moon shadow transit.


Triplet Jovian Eclipse. In the early morning hours of Saturday, January 24, telescopes will reveal a trio of tiny black dots trekking across the face of Jupiter.

Three of the gas giant’s moons, Calisto, Io, and Europa all cast their shadows tight on the cloud tops of Jupiter at once starting at 1:27 am EST to 1:53 am .

Happy hunting!

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter, Facebook, and his website.

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