Friday, January 15, 2010

Annular Solar Eclipse, Other Celestial Events in January

(Source: PAGASA)

An annular solar eclipse will occur on 15 January 2010 and will be the longest solar eclipse in duration since 1992. This eclipse will be visible from a track that goes across central Africa, the Indian Ocean and eastern Asia as seen in the picture above. The maximum eclipse occurs in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but the annular phase will still be seen from either Africa or Asia, according to Dr. Prisco D. Nilo, PAGASA Administrator.

In the Philippines, the event will be observed as a partial solar eclipse, and is best seen from the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the eclipse will start at 3:49 p.m. The peak of the eclipse will occur at 4:53 p.m. and end at 5:51 p.m.

Metro Manilans will see 39.1 percent of the sun’s diameter covered by the moon, Pagasa said

The Terrestrial Planets

Mars, the Red Planet remains visible throughout the month. It increases its magnitude from the beginning to the end of the month, from -0.8 to -1.3 with a phase of 96 to 99 percent and a diameter from 12.68 to 14.09 arcseconds. Mercury appears in the evening sky during the month lying low in the eastern horizon before sunrise. Venus will be difficult to observe due to its proximity to the Sun.

The Outer Gas Giant Planets

Jupiter dominates the evening sky shining at magnitude -2.1 and it lies in the constellation of Aquarius, the Water Bearer. Through a modest size telescope, the Great Red Spot will be seen as a pale oval followed by a darker ‘barge’ in the south Equatorial Belt. Uranus and Neptune will remain glowing at magnitude +5.9 and +8.0 and they will be located among the background stars of the constellations Pisces and Capricornus, respectively. The Ringed Planet Saturn will be visible in the morning sky throughout the month. It will be glowing at magnitude +0.9 and will lie among the background stars of the constellation Virgo, the Virgin.

Blue Moon

In astronomical terms, a 'blue moon' has nothing to do with color. Instead, it is the term used to denote only the second full moon that occurs within a given calendar month. Because it takes the moon about 29.5 days to circle the Earth once in its orbit, it is possible that two full moons can occur within the same calendar month. Such was the case in August 2004, when the moon was full on the 1st and the 30th, making the full moon on the 30th a 'blue moon.' On the average, this takes place once every two and a half years. This year, another blue moon will appear this January, with the moon displaying its full-phase on the 1st and the 30th of January.

Contrary to the occurrence of 'blue moon', there have been times when the moon does seem to have a blue color. This can be caused by dust particles in the atmosphere, which scatter light. The effects of this dust on the light coming from the moon can cause it to appear bluish in color. Fine dust particles are ejected into the Earth's upper atmosphere after large volcanic eruptions, as an example. The eruption of the Krakatoa Volcano in 1883 gave us one such 'blue moon'. For about 24 months after this volcano erupted, the dust it spewed into the upper atmosphere caused the moon to appear green and blue when viewed from around the world.

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