January 27, 2023

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A shower of shooting stars welcomes the new year

January 2023 opened with a rain of shooting stars: in fact, the first nights of the new year will see the activity of one of the main active swarms, the Quadrantids, which will be visible from Italian latitudes over everything from midnight to midnight. dawn. The peak is expected at night between January 3 and 4 in the hours before morning twilight, when the moon is slightly lower on the horizon making observation easier, as Union of Italian Astronomers (Uai) . However, at the end of the month, Venus and Saturn will make a show with two events not to be missed: on the evening of January 22, shortly after sunset, the very bright Venus will join Saturn in the constellation Capricorn, while the next day on the pair of planets Also add a crescent moon.

Also great anticipation for Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), It was discovered on March 2, 2022: it will reach its closest point to the sun (perihelion) on January 12, at an altitude of 166 million km, and from January 17 to February 5 it will be visible in the sky all night. As of January 24, the comet “could” be visible with binoculars and possibly with the naked eye.

In addition to the Quadrantids, some small meteor showers will also be active in January: the slow and bright Cancredi Delta, which is expected to peak on January 17, the Alpha Heridides, which will reach their maximum intensity two days later, and the Alpha Leonids, which they will close out for the month.

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The beginning of the new year will also witness a double conjunction between the Moon and Mars, which will meet twice in the same month, on January 3 and 30, within a noticeable concentration of stars in the constellation Taurus, including Aldebaran, Hyades and the Pleiades.

On January 4, at 17.00, the Earth will be at perihelion, that is, at the lowest distance from the Sun, equal to more than 147 thousand km. The days, which are getting longer again since the winter solstice on December 21, will get another 48 minutes of light from the beginning of the month.

The undisputed protagonist of the winter sky remains the constellation Orion, accompanied in the sky by its two dogs, the constellations of Canis Major, in which we find Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, and Canis Minor, in which Prasion shines.