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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of January 2018
Posted by Guy Pirro on 1/2/2018 12:01 PM

M45 - The Pleiades Star Cluster. Perhaps the most famous star cluster on the sky, the Pleiades can be seen without binoculars from even the depths of a light-polluted city. Also known as "The Seven Sisters" and M45, the Pleiades is one of the brightest and closest open clusters. The Pleiades contains over 3000 stars, is about 400 light years away, and only 13 light years across. Quite evident in the above photograph are the blue reflection nebulae that surround the brighter cluster stars. Low mass, faint, brown dwarfs have also been found in the Pleiades. (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, AURA/Caltech, Palomar Observatory, D. Soderblom and E. Nelan - STScI, F. Benedict and B. Arthur - University of Texas, and B. Jones - Lick Observatory)


Happy New Year and welcome to the night sky report for January 2018 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard and follow the advice of James Marshall Hendrix (apparently a fellow admirer of the heavens): "Excuse me while I kiss the sky."

The winter sky is filled with brilliant stars. An ancient constellation, Auriga was pictured as a goat herder by the Greeks and Romans. Auriga is a beautiful circlet of jeweled stars, gracing the sky overhead.

Capella, the sixth-brightest star in the sky, is a double star. The two stars are yellow stars like our own Sun, but they are about 10 times larger and 50 and 80 times brighter.

Near Auriga is the large constellation Taurus, the Bull. In Greek legend, this group of stars represented Zeus in the disguise of a white bull with golden horns. His eye is the orange Aldebaran, a red-giant star nearing the end of its life.

The Bull's V-shaped head is created by Caldwell 41 - The Hyades, a beautiful cluster of stars, easily seen with the naked eye.

M45 - The Pleiades star cluster lies near the head of the Bull. Large and bright, this star cluster is the best known in the sky and is often called "The Seven Sisters." The unaided eye can see just six or seven stars, but the Pleiades cluster contains over 250. Binoculars showcase the cluster at its best. The stars in this stellar swarm are hot and young. They are passing through a dusty cloud that reflects their blue light.

Saturn and Mercury rise together every morning before sunrise. Over the course of the month, the two planets shift position in the predawn sky. They appear to converge in the middle of the month, and then slowly swap places. With a backyard telescope, the two are easy to distinguish.

Bright Jupiter and reddish Mars rise together a few hours before the Sun. On the morning of January 6th, they appear less than half a degree apart, and can be seen in the same field of view in a backyard telescope.

The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on the night spanning January 3rd and 4th. Skywatchers who brave the cold might spot up to 40 meteors per hour.

The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."

Constellation: Auriga

IC 405 Diffuse Nebula C31 Flaming Star Nebula
IC 2149 Planetary Nebula P126
NGC 1664 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H59-8
NGC 1778 Open Cluster P68
NGC 1857 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H33-7
NGC 1883 Open Cluster P211
NGC 1893 Open Cluster P69
NGC 1907 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H39-7
NGC 1912 Open Cluster M38
NGC 1931 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H261-1
NGC 1960 Open Cluster M36
NGC 2099 Open Cluster M37
NGC 2126 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H68-8
NGC 2192 Open Cluster P212
NGC 2281 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H71-8

Constellation: Canis Major

IC 468 Diffuse Nebula P132
IC 2165 Planetary Nebula P133
NGC 2204 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H13-7
NGC 2207 Galaxy P216
- IC 2163 Galaxy Interacting with P216
NGC 2217 Galaxy P72
NGC 2243 Open Cluster P134
NGC 2287 Open Cluster M41
NGC 2345 Open Cluster P73
NGC 2354 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H16-7
NGC 2359 Diffuse Nebula P20 Thor's Helmet
NGC 2360 Open Cluster C58, Herschel 400 H12-7
NGC 2362 Open Cluster C64, Herschel 400 H17-7 Tau Canis Majoris Cluster
NGC 2367 Open Cluster P74
NGC 2374 Open Cluster P75
NGC 2383 Open Cluster P135
NGC 2384 Open Cluster P76

Constellation: Gemini

IC 2157 Open Cluster P156
NGC 2129 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H26-8
NGC 2158 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H17-6
NGC 2168 Open Cluster M35
NGC 2266 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H21-6
NGC 2304 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H2-6
NGC 2331 Open Cluster P157
NGC 2355 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H6-6
NGC 2371 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H316-2 (South) Paired with H317-2
NGC 2372 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H317-2 (North) Paired with H316-2
NGC 2392 Planetary Nebula C39, Herschel 400 H45-4 Eskimo Nebula
NGC 2395 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H11-8
NGC 2420 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H1-6

Constellation: Lepus

IC 418 Planetary Nebula P90 Spirograph Nebula
NGC 1904 Globular Cluster M79
NGC 1964 Galaxy Herschel 400 H21-4

Constellation: Monoceros

NGC 2185 Diffuse Nebula Herschel 400 H20-4
NGC 2215 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H20-7
NGC 2232 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H25-8
NGC 2236 Open Cluster P163
NGC 2237 Diffuse Nebula C49 Rosette Nebula
- NGC 2238 Diffuse Nebula Part of C49
- NGC 2246 Diffuse Nebula Part of C49
NGC 2244 Open Cluster C50, Herschel 400 H2-7
NGC 2250 Open Cluster P164
NGC 2251 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H3-8
NGC 2252 Open Cluster P91
NGC 2254 Open Cluster P165
NGC 2262 Open Cluster P231
NGC 2259 Open Cluster P232
NGC 2261 Diffuse Nebula C46 Hubble's Variable Nebula
NGC 2264 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H27-5, H5-8 Christmas Tree Cluster
NGC 2269 Open Cluster P166
NGC 2286 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H31-8
NGC 2299 Open Cluster P167
NGC 2301 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H27-6
NGC 2309 Open Cluster P233
NGC 2311 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H60-8
NGC 2323 Open Cluster M50
NGC 2324 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H38-7
NGC 2335 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H32-8
NGC 2343 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H33-8
NGC 2353 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H34-8
NGC 2368 Open Cluster P235
NGC 2506 Open Cluster C54, Herschel 400 H37-6

Constellation: Orion

IC 434 Diffuse Nebula P92 Horsehead Nebula
NGC 1662 Open Cluster P39
NGC 1788 Diffuse Nebula Herschel 400 H32-5
NGC 1976 Diffuse Nebula M42 Great Orion Nebula
NGC 1977 Open Cluster P40 Running Man Nebular Cluster
- NGC 1973 Diffuse Nebula Part of P40
- NGC 1975 Diffuse Nebula Part of P40
NGC 1980 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H31-5
NGC 1981 Open Cluster P41
NGC 1982 Diffuse Nebula M43 DeMairan's Nebula
NGC 1999 Diffuse Nebula Herschel 400 H33-4
NGC 2022 Diffuse Nebula Herschel 400 H34-4
NGC 2023 Diffuse Nebula P93
NGC 2024 Diffuse Nebula Herschel 400 H28-5 Flame Nebula
NGC 2039 Open Cluster P94
NGC 2068 Diffuse Nebula M78
NGC 2071 Diffuse Nebula P42
NGC 2112 Open Cluster P170
NGC 2141 Open Cluster P171
NGC 2143 Open Cluster P172
NGC 2169 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H24-8
NGC 2175 Open Cluster P43
- NGC 2174 Diffuse Nebula Part of P43
- IC 2159 Diffuse Nebula Part of P43
NGC 2186 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H25-7
NGC 2194 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H5-6

Constellation: Taurus

Messier 45 Open Cluster M45 Pleiades
Caldwell 41 Open Cluster C41 Hyades
IC 1995 Diffuse Nebula P64
NGC 1514 Planetary Nebula P120
NGC 1554 Diffuse Nebula P200 Von Struve's Lost Nebula
NGC 1555 Diffuse Nebula P201 Hind's Variable Nebula
NGC 1647 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H8-8
NGC 1750 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H43-8
NGC 1807 Open Cluster P65
NGC 1817 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H4-7
NGC 1952 Diffuse Nebula M1 Crab Nebula

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