SJAA Ephemeris January 2000 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

The Shallow Sky

Akkana Peck

We begin the "oughts" on a high note for planet watchers, as Jupiter and Saturn ride high in the January sky, visible all night, just fifteen degrees apart from each other and moving closer.

Jupiter's southern equatorial band (SEB) has been odd this year; The portion of the band following the Great Red Spot (GRS) is unusually light, almost invisible in small telescopes. Larger telescopes and steady air will show that this almost invisible band is actually filled with white ovals, and the area north of it filled with turbulent swirls and eddies. Dark festoons stream down from the NEB into this zone of turbulence - a lovely sight!

As always, the dance of Jupiter's moons and their shadows across the face of the planet is fun to watch. Jupiter is passing through eastern quadrature (on the 17th), so the distances between each moon and the shadow it casts will be at a maximum.

Saturn shows a ring tilt of nineteen degrees: not as much as the middle of last year, nor as great as we'll see later in 2000 (24.3 degrees in early September), but still very generous compared to most years' views.
Jupiter sketch by the Author
The previously elusive gap in the outer "A" ring is easier than it has been in the past, and all three rings as well as the planet's face show subtle shadings. Saturn reaches eastern quadrature on January January 31st, which means that the shadow of the planet on the rings (which gives the planet an especially "three-dimensional" look) will be most prominent then.

Mars continues to hang low in the southwest at sunset.

The innermost planet, Mercury, and the outermost three, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, are all too close to the sun (from our vantage point, that is!) to be observable this month.

The earth reaches perihelion, the closest approach to the sun this year, on January 3rd around 9pm PST.

Venus is in the morning sky, rising a few hours before sunrise.

Mail to: Akkana Peck
Copyright © 2000 San Jose Astronomical Association
Last updated: July 19, 2007

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