Yes, it’s 2009, the International Year of Astronomy!

And here’s the What’sUp roundup for this month…
3  Peak of the Quadrantids meteor shower – get up about six this morning and the radiant (where the meteors appear to come from) is roughly overhead. Lie back in a chair and you’re bound to catch some. On the morning of Jan 2, the activity was at 10 meteors per hour, so this morning will be better – the shower peaks at 1 o’clock but that’s daylight.
4  Mercury is at elongation and you might be able to see it low in the south-western evening sky near brighter Jupiter.
7  The Gibbous Moon passes in front of the Pleiades. Look at the Moon through binoculars as it gets dark and you’ll see a cluster of stars near or behind it. That’s the Pleiades. Watch the dark left limb of the moon as the evening goes on and you should be able to see a few stars disappear. The occultation is over by about 18:40. MAIL ME for more details.
15 Saturn is 7° North of the Moon – look moonward in the morning.
23 Venus is just over 1° North of Uranus this evening. Uranus is quite easy to see with binoculars – here’s a sky map: http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/astronomy/nightsky/Jan21st.jpg. This is the one of the best opportunities to see the green planet – why not give it a go!
30 The Crescent Moon is 4° above Venus in the evening sky. Conjunctions of Venus and the Moon are really nice so give this one a go!
Comets and asteroids
This month, only the asteroids Ceres and Vesta are in binocular range. Here are links to their paths against the stars but the charts are upside down because it’s New Zealand! The charts are explained on the site.
Vesta: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/MinorP/09Vesta.htm (the chart we want wasn’t working last time I checked)
Comet Lulin is now within binocular range (magnitude +7.5) but low in the morning sky. By mid-month it is better placed and by the end of the month it could be magnitude 6 and small telescopes may be able to see that it is in fact fuzzy. It could reach magnitude +4 at some point – visible to the naked eye. For small telescopes there’s Christensen (2008 X4) at mag. +9.5 – see http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~jds/ for more details.
If you have a pair of binoculars, go out some clear night and look up. You’ll be amazed at what you can see. That’s what makes astronomy so rewarding, and why this year the Universe is yours to discover!
Keep an eye to the sky!