This Week In Astronomy

Hunting the Hunter
Our favorite constellation Orion continues to be high in the night sky in January, providing backyard astronomers spectacular sights throughout the month. Take a closer look at the middle star of Orion’s sword with binoculars to reveal amazing views of the bright emission nebula M42.
Just above Alnitak, the easternmost star of Orion’s belt, the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) can be found. Dark lanes of dust give this emission nebula its fiery appearance. The picturesque absorption nebula Barnard 33, also called the Horsehead Nebula, can be found just south of Alnitak.
Scan the skies above and to the east of belt star Alnitak to find reflection nebula M78.
Hind’s Crimson Star
Just South of Orion is the constellation Lepus, the Hare. In Lepus you can catch a glimpse of the rare winter globular cluster M79, as well as R Lepori – a well-known variable star that varies between magnitudes +5.5 (just visible to the naked eye) to +11.7 with a period of about 427 days. What’s interesting about this star is that because it is a “carbon star” it is very red; when at its brightest, the red color is unmistakable.
New Moon
Take advantage of the dark New Moon phase on January 17th and break out your biggest telescope for great views of deep sky objects. Since you don’t have to worry about glaring moonlight during the New Moon phase, it’s a great opportunity to obtain good views of fainter celestial objects from any location. For exceptional views, pack up your astronomy gear and head to a dark sky location away from city lights to really take advantage of the dark conditions.