-By Rishi Shah
As it darkens the night skies of this month becomes alive with planets, stars and many awesome wonders of our universe. Zodiacal constellations of Aquarius (water bearer), Pisces (fishes), Aires (ram), Taurus (bull), Gemini(twins) and Cancer (crab) are seen unfurling from western to eastern horizon. The Great Square of Peagasus (winged horse) is soaring towards western sky. Constellations Andromeda (chained princess),Perseus(mythological hero) and tiny Triangulum (triangle) are estending towards east from peagasus. Dim constellations Lynx (animal) and Camelopardalis(girafe) are entering the northeastern sky.Lengthy Eridanus(river)and broad Cetus (whale) with imposing variable star Mira(the wonderful) are spreading in southern sky. Mira is moderately 420 light-years away. The charismatic constellation Orion(hunter) with its marvelous stars as Betelgeuse(Ardra) and Rigel is ascending the eastern sky.Obsured heavily behind the intervening curtains of stars and interstellar gas and dust cloud in the plane of our galaxy. fulgent spiral galaxy IC342 can be admired with difficulty in the long-necked Camelopardalis. The murky debris, blue star clusters and shimmering rosy star bearing areas along spiral arms that are winding from the galaxy’s core manifest its hidden enigmatic nature and suggest the vehement star formation activity. It could have aggressively impacted the development of the so-called local group of galaxies and our Milky Way. Tantalizing IC342 was identified in 1895 by British astronomer William Fredrick Denning in 1895 and forms a splendid group with large and dwarf galaxies . It is fairly ten million light-years away.
The exclusive inner planets Mercury and Venus display their gleaming presence in eastern sky after sundwon. They are cavorting gleefully across the vast stellar realms of Libra (scales), Scorpius (scorpion) and Ophiuchus (serpent bearer). Alluring giant star Antares (Jestha) shines capitvatingly in their vicinity. The mighty planet Jupiter can be noticed un mistakably after sunset high above in western sky. It is glaring among the stars of Pisces. Far-flung greenish planet Uranus could be spotted above Jupiter. Ringed planet Saturn is glistening in Virgo (maiden). It can be located near minute star Theta Virginish. The enchanting apparitions of its mysterious moons like Titan, Tethys, Dione and Rhea could be enjoyed through telescopes. Bluish planet Neptune could be glimsed west of dull Aquarious-star lota Aquarii that hovers in western sky after nightfall. Ruddy planet Mars is fleeting towards Capricornus (sea goat). Discerning it in Sun’s proximity is not easy. Distant diminutive dwarf planet Pluto is relaxing in Sagittarious (archer).
Circumpolar constellations Draco (dragon), Cepheus (king), Cassiopeia (queen) and Ursa Major (great bear) are circling Polaris (Pole Star or Dhruba Tara)that resides in Ursa Minor (little bear). The glittering veil of our galaxy the Milky Way runs mainly thorugh Cygnus (swan), Lacerta (lizard), Cassiopeia, Perseus, Auriga (charioteer) and Monoceros (unicorn). The blossoming exquisite clouds of interstellar dirt and gas that mimic delicate heavenly petals dubbed lris Nebula (NGC7023) flourishes in the fertile star field of Cepheus. When examined in infrared light existence of complex carbon molecules that are known as PAHs, was perceived. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) that is assumed to be abundant in the primordial soup of the early earth, played major role in the origin of life.
Cigar Galaxy (M82 or GC3034) is extraordinary prototype of irregular starburst galaxy that is modestly twelve million light-years away in Ursa Major. It is puzzlingly five times or one hundred times as luminous as our galaxy or its center. Over two hundred young massive energetic clusters inhabit its core. Young stars are being created (utterly ten times) faster than inside our whole Milky Way.
Bewitchingly resplendent ring-resembling planetary nebula nicknamed Necklace Nebula with pearls of flaming gas clouds (constaining chiefly ionized hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen) adorns petite Sagita (arrow) that flies below Cygnus.
Quandrantid meteor shower could exhibit the fascinating flashes of its shooting stars that peak in northeastern sky on 04 January before dawn as they emanate from the northern region of Bootes (herdsman).
Meteor shower obtain their nomenclatures from the constellation from which they apparently emerge. When the International Astronomical Union (IAU) adopted the modern catalogue of eighty eight officially -recognized constellations, obsolete constellation.Quadrans Muralis(mural quadrant that is presently part of Bootes), which gave the shower its name was removed from the list in 1922, Asteroid 37-fides dashes through enthralling star cluster the Pleiades(Seven Sister) that dwells in Taurus, Comet 103 P/Hartely swings across the huge expanse occupied by Canis Major(great dog),as it tumbles dauntingly towards Monoceros. Star Sirius(Lubdhak) sparkles stunningly to its west.
Earth will be closest to the Sun on 03 January. It is simply 147 million kilometres from it. We are farthest (purely 152 million kilometres) away from Sun in summer. Even though earth is closer to Sun in January than in July, the tilt (circa 23.6 degrees) of our planet’s axis primly determines our four seasons. In winter, earth is tilted away fro the Sun, but in summer, it is inclined towards it. Furthermore, the elliptical shape of earth’s orbit strangely influences the variation in the length of the seasons, as earth rushes wih altering velocity from December solstice (shortest day longest night) to March (vernal) equinox (equal day and night) and eventually from June solstice (longest day but shortest night) to September (autumnal) equinox. New moon is on 04 January, while full moon (popularly known as full wolf moon) falls on 19 January. Partial solar eclipse would be witnessed from some places in Europe, Africa and Central Asia.
Source: The Rising Nepal, January 1, 2011